Though it may be brandishing a new name ‘Jigsaw’ is anything but a franchise revolution, instead it’s very much a continuation of the template laid out by its predecessors. Long time series fans, if somehow any exist after the truly wretched ‘Saw 3D’, may well get a kick out of the familiar ‘Saw’ tropes being wheeled out after an extended absence but ‘Jigsaw’ will not attract any newcomers. This is the same ‘Saw’ movie you’ve watched seven times already just with a different name at the beginning.
Perhaps the smartest decision ‘Jigsaw’ takes is to untangle itself from the mess of annoying characters and silly subplots that heavily weighted down the later ‘Saw’ instalments. This latest entry can be followed regardless of your exposure to the previous films in the series. The same problem that has plagued every ‘Saw’ movie does unfortunately rear its ugly head here, which is that everything outside of the iconic and elaborate traps, that are of course the main attraction, is sleep inducing at best and nausea inducing at worst. The police team trying to track down whoever is behind the sadistic killings, led by Det. Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), are so unpleasant you’ll root for the murderer.
Taking cues from ‘Saw V’ the traps are presented as a chorological series of challenges that a thinning group of victims must solve. Their design is disappointingly simple compared to previous games of death seen in the series but for fans of the genre there’s still plenty of blood split and limbs dismembered. The victims are your usual group from the loud-mouthed male who won’t stop yelling and swearing, to the female protagonist who never stops telling people to “follow the rules”, these predictable archetypes are as paint by numbers as they come and they’re only memorable for the ways in which they die.
At least the final fifteen minutes are enjoyable enough, the multiple twists are so predictable that you’ll have them sussed within the film’s first act but they make thematic sense and don’t feel cheap. It’s just a shame that ‘Jigsaw’ doesn’t contain a single compelling character. It’s very hard to care if someone is going to survive a trap where they have to cut their own leg off, when the victim is so extremely unlikeable. Even the film’s de facto protagonist, a doctor named Logan (Matt Passmore), is so bland that you’ll struggle to even recall his name midway through the film.
The directing duo of the Spierig Brothers make some disappointing errors for such a well-established filmmaking team. The audio mixing is atrocious, some of the worst you’ll hear this year, often characters are impossible to hear above the grinding of a saw blade or just the rumbling of a car engine. The film is also rather ugly looking in place, and not in a gritty grindhouse style but more like a cheap television soap. ‘Saw’ as a franchise has never been renounced for its cinematic prowess but with the budget given there’s little reason for the film to be so frequently unpleasant to look at.
2017 has been a strong year for horror with hits such as “Get Out” and “IT” proving that the genre is capable of more than just cheap scares but is in fact a fertile ground for creative film making. Then a movie like “Jigsaw” comes around to remind you of why the genre often gets a bad rep. Fans of this type of film will find a few moments to saver but it’s all territory that is well worn and done better elsewhere. Pre-release there was a scent of pointlessness to ‘Jigsaw’ and the film itself does nothing to banish that sour odour.
Score - 4.0