This is a SPOILER FREE review of the new film Jigsaw
I’ve always felt that the Saw films are far better than the reputations they have received. I believe that many of them are good films, achieving what they set out to accomplish. Even the duds have fun and enjoyable elements to them.
Clearly this opinion is a polarizing one when you look at the critical reception the movies have received.
Enjoying the Saw franchise is all about how you look at the films going in. They are psychological thrillers filled with gory inventive death traps, fun convoluted mythology, and mind-bending twists. All of the films are wrapped in a fun balance of campiness and seriousness that can tackle some truly mind provoking character decisions. They aren’t trying to be a grand masterpiece, or high art across the board, and that’s okay—given the film itself understands its identity and is able to maintain it. Saw is very similar to the Fast & Furious franchise in this respect.
Jigsaw takes place ten years after the death of John Kramer. When grisly, mutilated bodies start showing up, all of the signs point to a new game being set in motion. With John Kramer supposedly dead, the question is asked: Is John Kramer somehow alive, or is an obsessed copycat killer committing these grisly acts in his name?
Now, the question I had going in was how the The Spierig Brothers directed Jigsaw will hold up against the previous seven entries. I’m happy to report that it holds up quite well. It is important to note that if you have never liked any of the previous Saw films, this one isn’t likely to change your mind. If you are a big fan, don’t let that comment scare you. There is plenty to love and appreciate when it comes to referencing past events. However, the film works well even for newcomers to Jigsaw’s world. Mostly, these references are in the form of well done subtle nods, and can be appreciated by long time viewers, but still be understood at a basic level by a new audience.
It’s hard to talk about the entirely new roster of characters that Jigsaw brings to the table, because doing so can very easily lead to spoiler territory. What I will say is that we do get some good additions to the Saw mythos, with new faces that are able to give a decent performance (like Laura Vandervoort as Anna, Paul Braunstein as Ryan, or Matt Passmore as Logan). However, there are a few new characters that seem lackluster (people like Hannah Emily Anderson as Eleanor Bonneville, and Kallum Keith Rennie as Detective Halloran). Luckily, when the lesser characters do grace the screen, their inability to hold their own doesn’t over shadow the film.
Another shortcoming of Jigsaw is the lack of any real emotional connection to anybody on screen. Be it a victim or an officer on the outside, you never feel any emotional attachment—certainly nothing like the films achieved with past characters like Jeff or William. There are points in Jigsaw where the story tries to give you something more. When it does, the clunkiness leads to it falling flat, with only a couple of exceptions.
The film cuts back and forth between the main game, and the police as they catch wind of Jigsaw’s new game. This method strains the first act, as the film has a relatively rocky start. But once the film crosses the second act line, and multiple mysteries and traps are being juggled, the film really picks up and leads right into the best part: the twist.
Hearing “Hello Zep” as a mind-bending twist unfolds is certainly one of my favorite aspects of the Saw franchise. It’s fun trying to stitch together all of the moving pieces as the film progresses. When the revamped take on “Hello Zep” finally kicks in, the film does not disappoint. The multiple twists unravel masterfully, and in such rapid succession that it will give you whiplash in the best possible way. I think it easily holds itself as one of the best Saw twists to date.
I’m sure you guys are wondering how this film fares when it comes to a staple of the series: the traps. While most of the traps are fun, and some are quite inventive (like the motorcycle trap), overall I don’t think any of them will top the best that the franchise has offered. They are far from duds, and I would say that only one of the many offered encroaches disappointment. Visually the traps excel. From the well designed bucket head room, to the motorcycle trap, Jigsaw’s death traps look particularly good this time around. Several traps in the film center around impossible choices, which always make for a more intriguing scenario to watch. Now where the traps do falter, for the most part, is a lack of emotional resonance and thematic importance, an area where both Saw III and VI excelled. Though If you’re just simply looking for entertaining deadly devices, this movie has you covered.
I did notice that this movie was noticeably less gory than the previous films. It seemed as if the film shied away from showing the more intricate moments of a victim’s death. While that might be disappointing to those that are in it for the visceral death shots, there is still one moment in particular that should do more than satisfy that craving. That’s not to say that there is a lack of extreme violence however, as there is plenty of blood and brutality to go around.
Overall, Jigsaw won’t be winning any awards. Outside of it’s twist, the new film isn’t amazing or groundbreaking, and the film doesn’t provide any incredible performances. It’s nothing new. But it’s still fun, and is a welcome return to a long absent franchise. This is a Halloween tradition that I’m glad to have back.
You can now catch Jigsaw now playing nationwide in your local theaters.