Even a decade after his final breath, the sadistic serial killer Jigsaw’s presence is still every bit as dangerous as before. Thirteen years ago on Halloween weekend, ‘Saw’ and the character of Jigsaw introduced the world to a new face of horror. For seven straight years “If it’s Halloween it must be Saw” was a holiday tradition. This time, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures proudly present ‘Jigsaw’. After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement find themselves chasing the ghost of a man dead for over a decade and embroiled in a new game that’s only just begun. Is John Kramer (Tobin Bell) back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a dangerous killer with their own set of harmful intentions? ‘Jigsaw’ is directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, and is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and for adult language.
There hasn’t been a Saw film in seven years, the last of which was my overall least favorite for the series, and while ‘Jigsaw’ is a definite improvement upon that supposed final effort, it stumbles at bringing back the fun to the Halloween movie season because of a lack of significant scares and flawed continuity that stretches the logic of the previous films even further. Considering this film was supposed to pick up the pieces from a series that closed its doors air tight, there’s very little reasoning to re-vitalize this series for any other reason than a guaranteed cash grab at the box office. Is there fun to be had? Of course. ‘Jigsaw’ definitely serves as one of those horror movies where the less you think about it, the easier it will be to embrace its mental torture on the perks of coherent storytelling. But being a faithful fan of the previous films means that I can’t in any way overlook the future direction that this film is inevitably heading, lessening the impact of character development and well-timed mystery, in exchange for a thirst for torture and brutality that consistently chooses to up the ante.
What I did enjoy most of all was the much-needed improvement of the Spierig brothers to taking this franchise under its grasp and breathing energy into its sometimes jaded presentation. The biggest aspect of improvement within this film that I can be appreciative of is that the Spierig’s have gotten rid of the choppy editing and horribly annoying transitional scenes that has often made a majority of these death sequences an eyesore, and instead let the tension ride itself out without any unnatural enhancements that breaks the flow of patience. In addition to splicing, this is definitely the first Saw film that looks like it belongs on a silver screen, imbedding some beautiful color palates and simplicity in sequence design that casts a lot of beauty in its painful backdrops. When you consider this film with the earlier efforts, it definitely feels like some money was finally thrust upon this comeback, and if this is the direction that future chapters are heading, then please let the Spierig’s be the breath that blows into the lungs of this 13 year series.
The story isn’t anything mind-blowing until you realize what is really going on here. For once, it really feels like the mystery of the killer is secondary to the overall set-up once the bomb is dropped for how John Kramer walks again. I did enjoy how this installment bent the exposition of some of the previous installments without necessarily relying on their characters and circumstance in telling its own plot. One thing that was glaring to me however, was the logic holes within ‘Jigsaw’ that made me quickly lose believability within the film. Again, I get that this is a stupid horror film that isn’t supposed to be taken, but if we could get such psychological spring from the first two films, why can’t this one follow in the same sacred waters? SPOILERS AHEAD, SO STOP IF YOU DON”T WANT TO BE SPOILED. Some of the examples that really bugged me were the uses of flat-screen television’s within this world, and how jumbled that idea feels once you know the timeframe of when this film takes place. Considering half of this movie takes place before Saw 1 (2004), it’s a bit of a stretch to think that flat-screen plasma TV’s are just walking off of the shelves. In addition to this, the bodies at the end of the film being found in a barn is ridiculous when you consider the barn is owned by Jigsaw’s wife as told in Saw 6, and she was THOROUGHLY investigated for the murders. You think the authorities wouldn’t search a barn that she owns in deed? Give me a break. The timeline of events within the film also gets severely misconstrued in this film when you consider now that the events of films 1-4, as well as this one, as well as the book signing from the lying author in part 6, all took place within a year. That’s either some incredible craftsmanship by one man, or the single greatest bending of time to ever take place within a film world.
As should be no surprise, the characters and performances are kind of secondary to the inevitable violence that we as a society embrace as the soul reason we see these films. With that said, there isn’t a character in this film who I deem worthy of wanting to invest 87 minutes of my time with. Other than the usual flimsy exposition used during the big reveal scenes, there’s very little to any of these characters that give us that kind of investment to want to root for them. To play into Jigsaw’s game, these are terrible people who have done terrible things, so there doesn’t ever feel like any redeeming qualities to even one of them that makes their deaths provide that much more impact. Even for a Saw film, there is a grave lack of attention paid to the progression of these people and their situations that makes it feel like the film has moved on to greener pastures without them. Those pastures are the ones that make us scream for our lives and give us as close to an experience with death as any of us would deem entertainment.
On that subject, the traps still pack a lot of imagination, even if some ideas feel like re-treads of some earlier blueprints. ‘Jigsaw’ has a surprisingly refreshing lack of blood that doesn’t remove it as a whole, but does at least tone it down to heighten the impact when the film does decide to show the red, saving some of the biggest thrills for the final confrontation that doesn’t disappoint. There is a lot of C.G used to enhance effects work of these materials, but with the exception of the final death, it all reigned with an air of truth to it, making the transition from camera to computer feel seamless. Some of the deaths definitely rely on circumstance to further the progression of our protagonists. For instance, there’s one scene where a man accidentally falls through a floor, and a Jigsaw tape is there waiting to be played. What if this guy never crashed through the floor? Would they be stuck in that room for life? Some of these angles are a bit of a stretch in logic, but if you don’t ask for legitimacy in a movie, ‘Jigsaw’ won’t bother you in the slightest for its noticeable stupidity, which does occasionally over-exceeds its grasp on terrifying atmospheres and timely scares that this film didn’t give a single one to me.
THE VERDICT – ‘Jigsaw’ isn’t anything spectacular, but it does return one of our favorite 21st century killers to the forefront of the silver screen where he rightfully belongs. The film sadly can’t add any kind of possible substance in screenplay or thrills to the Spierig’s hardworking production qualities that do visually enhance the artistic vibes from this chapter, and outsells what this hollow screenplay follows through with on its beautiful stages. If you’re a Saw enthusiast, the film should give you a guaranteed good time, but anyone else won’t be won over with this middle of the road chapter that lacks any kind of originality or logic in storytelling sequencing needed to make its many jumbled pieces fit without force.