I can’t imagine many people in 2017 begging for another entry in the Saw franchise. Several movie into most horror franchises are typically marked by a descent into self-parody. In some cases, later sequels just shrug their shoulders, give up, and jettison themselves into space (see Hellraiser, Leprechaun). Once a Halloween tradition in the 2000’s, the Saw franchise mercifully ended with 2010’s Saw 3D. The seventh film in the series, Saw 3D was a lacklustre effort that barely rose above the quality of a straight-to-video movie. But you can’t keep a good horror villain down. With Jigsaw, we have yet another belated attempt to revive another horror icon.
Ten years have passed since Jigsaw killer, John Kramer, died. Now bodies have started turning up across the city. Each death bares trademarks of the Jigsaw killer’s modus operandi. Though he’s been gone for a decade, police detectives face the distinct possibility of a Jigsaw copycat killer. Meanwhile, five strangers wake up in a barn. Each is chained by the neck, wearing buckets over the head, and dragged towards buzzsaws. Someone wants them to confess all their sins. While these five strangers are forced to confess their sins or face gruesome deaths, police detectives will battle their mistrust of one another as they try and to determine whether Jigsaw is somehow still alive or another apprentice has taken up his life’s work.
The Guest No One Invited to the Party
Jigsaw is less a sequel, and more a soft reboot. Twisted Pictures and Lionsgate were clearly hoping to re-ignite their franchise. Their big idea – pass on the mantle to a new Jigsaw killer. Directors Michael and Peter Spierig should have saved themselves some time and watched Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning to see how that’s worked out in the past. And let’s face it, the Saw franchise was already burdened by a convoluted narrative. More or less, the original movies made their increasingly unlikely plot twists and revelations work.
In contrast, Jigsaw never convinces that it’s more than a cynical cash-in. Nothing about the movie feels necessary. This sequel feels largely disconnected from its predecessors. None of the characters will remotely resonate with audiences. There’s no Doctor Gordon, Amanda Young, Riggs or Matthews, or even an Agent Strahm in this film. At times, you may even find yourself missing Costas Mandylor’s Detective Hoffman. In fact, you’ll have to look hard to find Tobin Bell. I found myself checking the IMDb page for Jigsaw to remind myself who was talking. Characters won’t trust one another. No suspense will be generated. You won’t care.
Jigsaw Takes the Franchise From Horror to Ho-Hum
No one is watching a Saw film for layered storytelling or satisfying character arcs. This is ‘torture porn’. Franchise fans are for the elaborate, over-the-top death scenes. To be brutally honest, aside from Tobin Bell, it’s the trap designs that have been the series’ hallmark. Sadly, Jigsaw disappoints on this front, too. If Saw V was unmemorable, the series may arguably hit a low point here. Nothing even closely reaching the heights of memorable. There is certainly some gore and one scene in a silo filling with grain and failing sharp objects manages to generate some tension but its far too little to justify the film’s existence.
Jigsaw An Unnecessary, Belated Sequel
The worst sin committed by Jigsaw is that it’s boring. Later entries in other horror franchises – Friday the 13th and Scream – were at least gonzo enough to be amusing on their own terms. Jigsaw is honestly a chore to sit through as it drags to its conclusion. The good news for Saw fans is that Saw 3D may no longer be the worst film in the series.