Review

REVIEW: Jigsaw (2017)

Director: The Spierig Brothers

Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Dianne Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein

Running time: 92 minutes

2-stars

Moralist serial killer John Kramer – a.k.a Jigsaw – has been dead for a decade. However, when bodies begin to show up that bear his eerily distinctive mark, Detective Halloran (Rennie) and medical examiner Logan (Passmore) suspect that a copycat is at large. Meanwhile, five strangers awake in a remote barn and are forced to take part in a deadly game in which dark secrets are revealed.

Many didn’t ask for it. Many didn’t want it. But here we are – we have it. Even after 13-years and seven films later, apparently some people still haven’t quite had their fill of cassette-playing, torturous mayhem.

Puzzled? You wouldn’t be the only one.

The Saw franchise has had a pretty good run though, right? But so often the engineers of their own downfall, it seems the makers’ justification for a plethora of B-movie style follow-ups to the impressive original is based on some wild presumption that the public craves an annual fix of sinners being tortured in increasingly graphic and sadistic ways – that, or someone’s bank balance isn’t looking too healthy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, Jigsaw (a.k.a Saw 8) offers up much of the same old blood-splattering set-pieces and narrative rhythm of those that have come before; however, there’s just enough gristle and prime cuts of homage here to satisfy loyal fans of the series.

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Sensibly opting against picking up where Saw 3D/Saw: The Final Chapter/Saw VII left off, The Spierig Brothers, with writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, attempt to wipe the slate clean – at least partially, anyway. A sequel in a very loose sense, Jigsaw’s set-up is largely familiar, and Kramer’s presence is more than a little felt, but this is an entirely new game with entirely new players.

But new doesn’t always mean better. In the case of Jigsaw, it starts off as if trying to be nothing more than a good ol’ fashioned gore-romp, but soon finds itself ensnared in the same old narrative traps that we’ve seen time and again.

Before five minutes have even elapsed, we once again find ourselves in some decrepit location in the company of a handful of strangers, each bound by chains, and each with their own skeleton lurking in the closet. And just as quickly as Kramer’s cryptic audio-riddling rings out, so too do the twisted moral games. And to its credit, the traps are commendably twisted, and the set-pieces suitably nasty, as we begin, rather appropriately, with some sinister looking circular saws, before moving swiftly to all manner of injecting, slicing, motorbiking, and falling farm tools. There’s even time for a quick wander down memory lane, as everyone’s favourite torture devices – the water box, the torso-tearer-upper, and, of course, the infamous reverse bear trap – make fleeting cameos, but not quite as you’d expect.

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And while the wounds might cut deep, it’s a shame that those on which such wounds are inflicted really don’t. The characterisation here is, for lack of a more appropriate pun, paper thin. The usual culprits can all be found – from the dominant, selfish one, to the hapless voice of reason, to those there purely to make up the kill-count. But for Jigsaw, even those integral to the plot – the rugged detective, and grieving forensic pathologist – are drawn so one-dimensionally that you’ll struggle to empathise, or even care about any of them.

Narratively, Jigsaw also seems unable to escape the franchise’s own conventionality, as the film’s second-half appears to act merely as a canvas on which there is an incessant smearing of overly convoluted plot twists, and a staining of lazy revelations that are neither earned, nor make a whole lot of sense, and which die-hard fans will surely feel are a tad too signposted.

I wanted to like it, I really did. On a purely gross-out level it works; but while Jigsaw has a lot of menacing looking teeth, the majority sadly turn out to be blunt and rusted. “Oh, yes, there will be blood” – but oh, no, there won’t be much else.

 

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