Photo: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Movie rating: 6/10
Horror movie villains never die. After seven years, the “Saw” franchise has returned to unleash blood and mayhem on the silver screen with its eighth installment, “Jigsaw”. Dominating the box office in it’s pre-Halloween opening weekend, the saga’s latest film earned $16.3 million in North America, according to Variety.com.
The movie, directed by brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, takes place 10 years after the death of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), the notorious serial killer known as Jigsaw. A series of gruesome deaths begins to plague the city, matching the Jigsaw killer’s MO. Is it a copycat killer or has John Kramer returned from the grave to continue his grisly games of life and death?
The “Saw” franchise is known for its graphic depictions of death, self-mutilation, and gore. Although the first “Saw” (2004) was more of a psychological thriller and did not contain much gore, the ensuing films ventured into torture porn — a subgenre in horror films where gratuitous scenes of violence are central to the plot. But unlike its previous sequels, “Jigsaw” does not overly fetishize the blood and carnage. There is some restraint in this aspect, allowing viewers to focus more on the film’s acting and storyline.
“Jigsaw” is not an amazing film but it is a competent one. The cinematography and special effects are well-done. The musical score that was composed by “Saw” franchise veteran, Charlie Clouser, is thrilling. And, as always, Bell’s performance as John Kramer is excellent.
However, the film’s contribution to the saga is lacking; if this movie was never created, it would not have made any difference to the “Saw” universe. It simply does not offer anything new to the table. The film follows the tried and true formula of the franchise. One part of the film follows a group of Jigsaw’s victims who are forced to overcome a series of tests and torture devices, and separate scenes follow a police procedural standpoint where authorities work frantically to capture Jigsaw and rescue his victims. Eventually, these two storylines come to a head, leading to the final reveal in the third act.
Overall, “Jigsaw” is a disappointing film and a missed opportunity for the franchise to break out of its specific, cookie-cutter formula and reinvent itself. Although the movie is titled “Jigsaw”, the serial killer barely has any screen time. The title would have been justified, and the film enhanced, if the story had focused on Jigsaw’s origins and followed John Kramer’s point of view, allowing the audience to take a peek behind the obscure curtain of the man responsible for all of this bloodshed.
The storyline is not as compelling as previous “Saw” movies’. Its characters are, for the most part, unrelatable and nothing more than archetypes. Because of this, the film’s attempt of a signature plot twist for an ending falls flat.
What makes “Jigsaw” different from previous installments is its aesthetic and stylistic choices. The jarring, quick-cut editing that had been utilized in its previous films is no longer present. The film neither has the same gritty, dirty look. Instead, the syringes, chainsaws, and other props that are used in “Jigsaw” looked too clean and sterile.
“Saw” is known for its visceral torture devices but there are no memorable traps in “Jigsaw”. The traps in this film seem to be cheap imitations of what had already been seen in prequels.
“Jigsaw” should have gone straight to DVD. The first seven “Saw” movies can now be watched on Netflix and you are better off binge-watching these films if you’re still in the mood for a thrill. But if you are a longtime fan of the “Saw” franchise and want to take a walk down nightmare lane, “Jigsaw” is worth a one-time watch.