Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger
Starring: Tobin Bell, Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Cle Bennett
The parts which made this franchise great have been slowly hacked off until what remains is nothing more than an uninspired resemblance.
The simplest way to describe the latest instalment of the Saw franchise, Jigsaw, is that it has more in common with the franchise's later films than its earlier ones. Avid followers of the franchise will likely understand what this means, but for those who are less familiar, let me explain.
Firstly, much like Saws 5, 6 and 7, there continues to be an over-reliance on gore. As the tolerance for what can be shown on TV continues to expand, the last few Saw films have become increasingly graphic, and Jigsaw has blindly followed this trend. Any fan of the franchise will know, however, that the first 2 instalments are so good to watch partly due to the lack of horrendous injuries that are shown on screen. The best example of this must be the foot slicing scene from Saw (2004) (arguably Cary Elwes best performance) - this scene is disturbingly brilliant, but the majority of the focus is directed at the desperate, contorted face of his character, Dr Gordon, while almost none is directed at his foot. Not only that, but this scene is foreshadowed more than an hour before it happens, giving the film plenty of time to slowly build towards the climactic finish. Due to this intelligent direction, the early Saw films are atmospheric, claustrophobic, sinister and utterly horrifying, and benefit from a nuanced script which is not overshadowed by gory special effects. 13 years later, however, after seven increasingly bloody sequels and north of 100 deaths, Jigsaw fails to provide the shock factor which the first films delivered in spades. What began as an imaginative thriller, rippling with tension, has steadily evolved into little more than a torture-porn bonanza.
Secondly, while the earlier films could boast almost airtight plots, demonstrated through an intricate weave of flashbacks and parallel story-lines, the story construction of Jigsaw has been done in a much more slapdash manner, more akin to its more recent predecessors. Too much of the story is reliant on chance and some cavernous plot holes ruin the meticulous and exact nature of the films which was cultivated so well during the beginning of the franchise.
Thirdly, as with many multi-edition horror franchises, as Saw has grown older its imagination has been slowly waning. This is particularly evident in Jigsaw, as many of the traps and plot lines suspiciously resemble those from previous films, only recycled and adapted slightly - the inclusion of lasers (unfamiliar territory for Saw, if my memory serves me right) is perhaps the most outlandish addition to the franchise. More obvious attempts to exploit the viewer's nostalgia take the form of the inclusion of iconic Saw traps (such as the infamous reverse bear trap).
These unfortunate similarities might be forgivable if the basic filmmaking elements were also in place. Sadly, the script is uninspired and often too melodramatic, while some of the special effects are downright atrocious - one limb-slicing scene is particularly dreadful, so much so that I had to watch it twice to make sure my eyes hadn't tricked me. Not only is Jigsaw a poorly assembled Saw film, but its a poorly assembled film full stop.
It's not all bad. The acting is certainly passable, and the inclusion of some familiar faces is certainly welcome among a sea of newbies, delivering another pleasant injection of nostalgia. There is also a semi-imaginative late-in-the-game twist, the predictability of which depends on how much you are paying attention. It demonstrates an attempt to continue the unpredictable nature of the franchise, but it is nowhere near enough to drag this film anywhere close the level of the earlier films.
In one line: Saw is a franchise long past retirement and one which deserves a much more remarkable send-off than Jigsaw, an uninspired continuation which doesn't deserve to bear the name of one of horror's most interesting killers.