LIONSGATE FILMS (2017)

 

Directors: The Spierig Brothers

 

Starring: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles

“You’re about to play a game”

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter was seemingly the end of the long-running horror saga back in 2010. Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw killer was long dead and the franchise had run out of steam. But we’re all aware that studios are never quick to let a dying saga rest in peace. So, seven years after the last entry, the franchise returns with Jigsaw. But, but Jigsaw is dead? Huh?

 

Your questions are answered in a movie full of twists and surprises, but one still offering more of the same.

The new game begins after fugitive criminal Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black) pulls a remote trigger and sets off a timer in a farmhouse (location unknown), but earned himself a body full of bullets for his trouble from the local police, headed by Detective Halloran (Rennie). In the farmhouse, five victims are chained by their necks with metal buckets on their heads – those chains are rigged to pull them towards buzz saws attached to the opposite wall. Then the disembodied voice of John Kramer (Bell) booms out over the loudspeakers – he wants to play a game, and that’s never a good thing. If they can offer a small blood sacrifice, they will be free – and all but one are able to.

 

As the bodies begin to pile up, Halloran and the police notice a disturbing connection between each of the corpses – they all have a jigsaw piece cut out of them. Fearing a copycat Jigsaw killer, they step up their efforts, enlisting the help of forensic pathologists Logan (Passmore) and Eleanor (Anderson). With previous bad blood between them, however, Logan is wary of Halloran’s motives in this case. To dispel rumours of the Jigsaw’s return and to stop the bodies continuing to stack up, the police are left with no choice but to exhume Kramer’s body and quash that buzz – but nothing is ever as it seems with this franchise.

 

Daybreakers helmers The Spierig Brothers assumed the directorial reins of the franchises return, hoping to elevate Jigsaw above the average and middling sequels that began to bloat the once-annual saga. With the saga’s key component, John Kramer, having died in Saw III, surely there are only so many ways to continue to use the character? The Spierig Brothers certainly found a novel way to incorporate the character, though saying any more would essentially be a huge spoiler. In terms of the Saw franchise, no movie that came after the original has surpassed it, and it’s the same story here. However, Jigsaw does rank higher than most of the others entries.

 

You go to watch a Saw movie for the bizarre contraptions and grisly deaths, and Jigsaw provides the goods – maybe not as creative as what has come before, but it would seem the directors wanted a more…grounded feel? Less OTT and more raw. Obviously, some of the devices are unfathomable, because who wants the story to be too grounded? There’s plenty of blood flowing and gore on view for horror fiends, so in terms of what the movie needed to offer, Jigsaw succeeds on that level, and the final showdown is a deliciously deadly and gruesome finale. I’m trying to comprehend how the movie earned an 18 certification, however. There didn’t seem to be anything particularly unusual or brutal that would push it to that status. Alas, 18 it is. The ubiquitous big twist is present, and here it is a bold move that aims to throw the audience completely off-track. It’s interesting and well-executed, however, the convention has been utilised to different extents previously in the saga. Still, it’s entertaining and a worthy reveal.

 

The acting throughout is what you would expect from a movie in this franchise. It’s nothing spectacular, but the cast gets the job done. The characters aren’t the important element for the most part, acting more as dispensable meatbags. Bike-riding Billy returns to add some connecting and spooky gravitas to the proceedings, bringing with him the creepy, rough tones of Tobin Bell.

 

The main downfall of Jigsaw is that it offers nothing particularly fresh compared to the previous seven installments. Having brought the franchise back from the dead, seemingly unnecessarily, it would stand to reason that there was a special reason for doing so. However, the movie unfolds in a similar fashion and the clichés that have appeared previously all resurface and the movie borrows elements from most of the other chapters, rather than really take the saga in new directions. The lack of a compelling antagonist should hamper the prospects of future instalments also, but who’d put money on that happening?

 

Jigsaw brings the nasty as you’d expect, and will satisfy long-time fans of the Saw franchise. It has a good narrative and reveals weaved in, but you won’t find anything that wildly deviates from the well-trodden formula. As they say, if it ain’t broke…

 

Entertaining, but derivative.

October 31st 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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