After seven years of peace in the land, the Saw franchise has sadly returned to exert its presumed dominance over the Halloween movie season, because:
Audiences were promised that the previous installment, Saw 3D (as if these films weren’t revoltingly stupid enough in only two dimensions), would be the last—the final nail in the revolving door of the Jigsaw killer’s coffin. However, like an abusive spouse who promises never to hit his partner again, then does anyway, that promise was a big, fat, violent lie.
And so, enter Jigsaw, a sequel or reboot or something designed to keep this franchise on life support. In a rare occurrence, this is a major studio release that not a single writer for our publication wanted to cover. But fear not dear readers, for those who want to know if this new film is any good, I will be reviewing it based only on its Wikipedia plot summary (there’s no fucking way I’m seeing this film, though I did see the trailer during a screening of IT). I will, however, bring my background knowledge of the series into this assessment—I’ve only seen the first film (it’s awful), but I’ve also read the Wikipedia plot summaries of every other entry in the franchise, so I’m basically an expert.
In this latest attempt to keep the franchise going, a bunch of detectives investigate a series of bodies, appearing to belong to victims in a new bizarre Jigsaw murder trap game taking place in a barn. Evidence keeps appearing to suggest that the crimes are being committed by John Kramer, the original Jigsaw killer, who’s been dead for ten years (and five movies, if that matters to you).
This plot ends up making next to no sense. Even the Wikipedia plot synopsis was difficult to follow. I found myself going back to earlier paragraphs, re-reading the details of the story, and trying to piece together what the hell was going on while also attempting to keep track of the ridiculously unnecessary amount of characters.
The actors who bring these characters to life aren’t really famous—I didn’t recognize any of their names (aside from Tobin Bell, even though he’s only famous for his stupid role in these shitty films). Not being well known in Hollywood doesn’t mean that you’re a bad actor of course, but starring in these films really only requires someone who can scream, look confused, horrified, and feel comfortable being covered in fake blood. As such, it doesn’t take much talent for these kinds of roles, so I’m sure the assembled cast performs fine.
The cinematography is, I’d imagine, similar to what’s come before: A lot of dimly lit rooms and blood spraying everywhere. There might be some interesting death traps; to the writers’ credit, they somehow keep coming up with new Rube Goldberg-like ways to murder their on-screen victims. So, if you’re into torture porn, then maybe this film will have some icky bloodshed that’ll appeal to your sensibilities.
The film ends with a nonsensical plot twist, revealing (SPOILER), that the Jigsaw stuff happening in the barn actually took place ten years earlier while Kramer was alive. Additionally, one of the detectives was actually another Jigsaw apprentice (who was one of the people in the decade-old barn game, but survived), who staged new killings but used footage of the old killings to make it look like Kramer was still alive as an elaborate plot to lure one of the other detectives into a trap and kill him because he was a crooked detective who was in some ancillary way responsible for the death of the killer-apprentice-detective’s wife. It’s essentially a twist further expanding the franchise’s needlessly convoluted, non-linear timeline—like if Chris Nolan’s movies were made by a talentless hack (end spoiler, if you care).
That probably makes little sense, but by this point, the Wikipedia plot summary, and most likely the film itself, had gone on for too long and I had little interest in trying to put its mismatched puzzle pieces together—and that pun is far more clever than anything in the dopey plot of this movie.
In all seriousness, though, this franchise really is terrible. There’s nothing original or insightful about its themes, it’s not scary or suspenseful (just gross), and the attempts to keep its story going by piling on twist after twist are just nonsensical.
This year has given us fantastic horror films like Get Out, with its biting social commentary, and IT, with its fantastic performances and emotionally powerful core, which have broken box office records and appealed to wide audiences. With movies this strong inhabiting the genre, there’s no excuse for studios continuing to release mainstream snuff film garbage like Jigsaw.
(Featured Image: Jigsaw, Lionsgate Films)