JIGSAW Review

It’s hard to remember a time when Saw used to be one of (if not) the most successful horror franchise on the planet, churning out a brand-new instalment every year from 2004 until the series’ supposed final outing in 2010, each attracting a huge audience to create a cult following who enjoyed the franchises’ common use of gore, psychological themes, twisted imagery, mind-bending revelations, and the beginning of Torture Horror, and the main antagonist had been dead since the third outing (that’s saying a lot about Saw‘s legacy).

So who’d have thought seven years down the line that this franchise could possibly be resurrected from the dead. Of course you might argue as to why this needed to happen. After all, Saw: The Final Chapter concluded the series with a somewhat satisfying revelation that tried desperately to stitch together all of the remaining mysterious remnants of the convoluted, and non-linear, narrative (if slightly unsuccessful due to studio meddling which resulted in the final product being rushed and unpolished in it’s grand design to send-off the successful series).

But it’s this very reason which I felt a sequel was eventually needed in order to answer all the questions that the final conclusion should’ve given but ultimately failed to do so within its short, and messy, length. However, it was sad to know that Jigsaw, the latest outing in the series, didn’t try to touch upon the unanswered questions and instead went about to create new ones. But in that sense it was good to see because I wanted to see a fresh telling of the Saw story and that’s pretty much what I got.

Now, I’m not going to blow smoke up this film’s arse and declare it as the “Best Horror film of the year” (or “century” for that matter) but it did what it needed to, and that was to tell a “good” Saw story, which is all I could’ve asked for. Yes it blatantly follows the usual Saw formula, and in many ways becomes trapped by it in order to make the entire film a predictable experience, and a sort of “we’ve seen all that shit before, can you show us something else,” but it doesn’t necessarily damage the overall product.

I feel the film is faithful, but also fulfilling in trying to do something slightly new, especially when it comes to the direction and tone. Sibling directors Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig brought the Saw franchise into the modern-age and tried to make it feel up to date and less out-dated and unnecessary, bringing forth a professional look that made it feel worthy enough to be on the big screen again, as well as grinding back on the over-excessive gore from previous instalments and went with a more “fun” vibe, which is certainly how this latest instalment felt.

Above all, it was just nice to kick back and enjoy all the usual tropes that made the Saw films successful (for better or for worse) and try to dissect the narrative before the revelation finally hit me at the end. Obviously the films had a particular formula and thus it made it easier by the eight instalment to pre-determine who the copy-cat killer was going to be, and any other details that might be important within the unveiling mystery. But, surprisingly, the film threw plenty of curve-balls my way in order to make me second-guess my ideas as to how the film would play out.

As for a returning franchise it becomes rather self-aware in trying desperately to re-establish its relevance by reminding both the characters and the audience the importance of the previous instalments and that of the character John Kramer, aka The Jigsaw Killer. After-all, it has been seven years since Saw: The Final Chapter, and ten years within continuity since Kramer himself died, so it’s fair to say we needed a reason as to why Jigsaw is important and necessary. And in the end there isn’t a definitive reason as to why the franchise has returned.

The film doesn’t really do anything original, or really tries to take the franchise into a new direction that could possibly see it branch out. But, like I keep emphasising, I don’t really care because I still got an entertaining Saw film, and that’s all I could possibly ask for seven years after the last entry. It would’ve been even more disappointing to see a half-arsed effort attempting to bring the franchise back from the dead that felt nothing like the previous films, and thus lacking any real soul or presence, ultimately deflating the legacy Saw had built for itself.

So in that respect Jigsaw nicely adds to the franchise rather than detracts and I feel very welcoming in adding it to the previous line-up in order to extend the legacy further. Sure, if it doesn’t do well and no further sequels are made I won’t be fully disappointed because this film did well at creating a stand-alone narrative that nicely acts outside of the convoluted plot that developed over the course of the original series, but still remained respectful in sticking within its boundaries and rules.

Jigsaw opens up quite boldly by having a police chase, resulting in the escapee holding a bomb that was hidden for him to collect, in which he declares that he’s been told to either kill himself or allow others to die, thus beginning the brand-new games. Five unfortunate souls wake up in the usual manner and the film pretty much works like clock-work from then on (but not at all in a bad way). It was slightly disappointing to see familiar, or completely rehashed traps throughout, and that the traps didn’t feel as elaborate as before, let alone completely convincing in places because of the preciseness needed to activate them (along with other convenient moments that were essential for the overall narrative to work).

But, say, it was nice to have familiarity to draw me in, almost as if Jigsaw was playing off nostalgia in order to satisfy me. That’s not really a bad thing though. Sometimes it’s nice receiving the very thing we know and love, because let’s face it, if it ain’t broken why bother fixing it. Sure, I will admit that the Spierig Brothers could’ve tried harder but look how Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens turned out. That film played it really safe and re-tread a lot of familiar themes and ideas in order to play off nostalgia and people loved it. It did its job at easing you back in ready for when they threw something new at you in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi when they felt more comfortable and able to work in brand-new ideas. Who’s to say that that won’t happen here?

As each trap goes by the characters are bopped off in grizzly manners, leading the remaining survivors closer to their final fate, i.e. the lesson that Kramer wanted them to learn, thus granting them an opportunity at redemption for their past sins. Of course the characters within this section of the film are quite generic (then again, they don’t get much better elsewhere, but hey-ho) and it isn’t until you get to the last three characters in which you begin to give a shit, mostly because you start to get an understanding about who they are as people and what their reason for being there is.

The main woman, Anna, was somewhat the driving force of the group and constantly tried to keep people in check and able to perform the cruel task at hand. At first you come to believe that she is the innocent bystander in this whole situation but it’s upon learning of her backstory that you start to get serious doubts about her as a person because she’s clearly a liar, and that well and truly comes back to bite her in the arse by the end.

The other character of interest is Ryan who performs the role of being the cowardly arsehole who will do whatever he can in order to survive, even killing another member of the group in order to avoid death. He later gets his comeuppance when he fails to follow the rules and gets caught within his own trap, forcing him to perform a justly act in order to save others at the cost of himself, losing his leg via tightly placed wires wrapped around his leg.

These characters ultimately end-up being the final survivors and are forced to face the final twisted challenge which is revealed to be a rather anti-climatic trap but one that proves very effective in demonstrating the film’s core meaning, “rules”. Throughout Jigsaw tries to demonstrate the importance of rules and how they must be played out in order to receive true justice and to fulfil ones life fairly, and thus making mistakes, or taking short-cuts ultimately lead to the misfortunes of other’s whilst the individual in the wrong gets away with their crimes.

This plays out perfectly when Kramer himself gives Anna and Ryan their final test. You heard me right, Jigsaw himself returns from the dead in order to conclude his hard work. I’m not going to lie, this revelation was a massive “What the Fuck” moment and it literally left me confused, but also excited at the possibility that Kramer somehow cheated his death all along and has now returned to continue his work. Kudos to the film for trying something different and edging the way forward for this resurrected franchise.

Then a massive middle-finger is placed before Anna and Ryan as Anna, who is revealed to be a shitty and disturbed mother who couldn’t handle to burden of parenthood (thus suffocating her own child, and then proceeding to blame her husband who ultimately went insane in a mental institution before hanging himself [and she somehow lived with this as if it was okay – FUCK YOU BITCH!]), misinterprets Kramer’s message and ultimately dooms both herself and Ryan to the fate of death. Justice where is justice is deserved if you ask me.

As for the rest of the narrative, it’s a simple game of pin the blame on the character who appears the most suspicious, even going down the route of trying to blame the character that literally looks the most suspicious due to the fact that they have a massive fascination towards Kramer and his work, and even hides a massive collection of his traps in a secret room. It’s the usual investigation routine seen within all Saw films but it does at least attempt to be interesting and always kept me invested as to the build-up of suspicion and who could possibly by aiding Kramer in his latest game.

I literally figured out who the accomplice was within mere seconds of seeing them onscreen, but this wasn’t entirely a bad thing because the film did at least throw plenty of curve-balls at me to at least make me doubt myself throughout, especially when Kramer himself came back from the dead. But ultimately things were turned on their head and the usual Saw revelations took place in order to pull the rug from underneath us, showing us exactly what was really going and that everything we just witnessed didn’t happen the way we first perceived.

I’ll be honest, I felt it was really clever them revealing that the events of the trap actually happened ten years prior, making everything we saw literally disorienting and allowing the conclusion to have more confusing depth, and thus answered a lot of the mysterious aspects such as Kramer’s return. Of course with this revealed we now know that Kramer isn’t back from the grave (which was slightly disappointing because I love his character and it would’ve been interesting to see where they could’ve taken this – but hey-ho) and that the events of the games we saw perfectly linked into the events of the current investigation in order to complete a brand-new game enlisted for one of the characters we’d seen throughout.

Thus the real Jigsaw Killer is revealed, i.e. Logan Nelson (after the film makes out he’s been killed by one of Jigsaw’s traps due to failing in confessing his sins) and the final victim is put in their place. It’s a clever revenge strategy that has been in the works for ten years after Logan survived his test in the original game after Kramer released him upon his game going wrong, thus he felt that he couldn’t be fairly punished. It turns out that Logan was responsible for messing up Kramer’s hospital results which in turn began Kramer’s tragic backstory, setting the franchise’s overall events into motion.

In the end Kramer took him on as an apprentice before Logan finally set up the new game which perfectly mimicked the original game in order to punish some more victims and finally punish his enemy, Detective Halloran, a corrupt cop who continuously broke the rules and did things his own way, thus allowing the wrong people to forgo justice and many innocent people paid the price, including Logan’s wife. Logan played by the fair rules that Kramer lived by, granting Halloran a fair chance at winning his game but due to him trying to cheat and get around his confessions Logan ultimately decides to set off the trap and complete his work, allowing Halloran to be the fall guy.

Jigsaw is a neat little add-on to the Saw franchise. Self contained in order to feel like a stand-alone narrative but it adds enough to the table to expand more ideas should Lionsgate Films decide to continue with more sequels down the line. Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It wasn’t the best instalment within the franchise but it certainly stood as one of my favourites, acting as a worthy continuation to the franchise. Did it really need to happen? Well, no, not really. But was it good enough to bring the franchise back. Absolutely.

If you’re going into this film expecting something new you’re going to get it here and there, mostly in the aesthetics, but don’t expect anything un-expecting because that’s not what this film is there for. If you’re going in looking for everything you know and love from the previous Saw films, such as Tobin Bell seemlessly returning as Jigsaw, some grizzly traps, plenty of twists and turns, finished off with Charlie Clouser‘s iconic score, then that’s what you’re going to get. I guess it all depends on what you want out of this film, but for me personally, it ticked all the right boxes and proved to be an entertaining experience, and honestly, that’s all we can ask for from a film.

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