Jigsaw

Review by Elena Lazic @elazic

Directed by

Michael Spierig Peter Spierig

Starring

Callum Keith Rennie Matt Passmore Tobin Bell

Anticipation.

The Spierig brothers are very talented, and the Saw franchise is in great need of a revamp.

Enjoyment.

It isn’t bad, but the gore isn’t scary, and the traps not fun enough.

In Retrospect.

This is competent, but after seven years, and with the Spierig brothers on board, we all expected more.

The Saw franchise is rebooted with a pair of hot horror directors behind the tiller. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

Seven years after diminishing returns put this once profitable franchise on indefinite hiatus, the Jigsaw killer is back in the eighth instalment of the Saw saga. This much anticipated return is directed by the Spierig brothers, the cunning minds behind 2009’s Daybreakers and the 2014 time-bending thriller Predestination. Who better to take on a series preoccupied with inventive violence and narrative sleight-of-hand than a pair of directors already renowned for delivering complex temporal tricks and dazzling gore.

With such distinctive talent picked for the comeback, fans rightfully expected something a little special. Far from it: Jigsaw isn’t any less competent than the best of its predecessors, but it is little more than a capable rehash of things these films have done over and over. Plus, it offers little of what has made the Spierigs’ work so distinctive.

From the set designs to the costumes and the performances, the film seems to consciously adopt a retro, mid-noughties horror movie aesthetic. Yet a modest homage to the glory days of the previous films can hardly be enough to revive a series that has been dead for seven years – let alone seduce a new generation of fans.

Structurally, Jigsaw comes the closest to aping Saw II. The new film follows a group of not-so-innocent victims tested by a series of more-or-less deadly games, as well as the police investigating their deaths as bodies pile up in the city. In previous instalments, cut-aways to the ridiculously cliched TV-looking cops often provided a welcome relief from the incredible tension and realistic violence of the games. But here, the curiously muted gore scenes render the police investigation more irritating than reassuring. The film’s over-reliance on the detective sequences to advance the narrative only diminishes a fan’s thirst for blood and for the hilariously overwrought traps of yore.

Indeed, one of the undeniable pleasures of this franchise has always been the intricate connection between the soon-to-be-victims’ mundane crimes, and the very sick, very complex traps that John Kramer, aka Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his protégés especially designed for them. To get free from their traps, victims had to overcome the one specific default that led them to hurt other people. According to Kramer’s weird logic, this was an opportunity for his victims to exorcise their demons and repent. In Jigsaw, this amusing non-equivalence between crime and punishment is almost absent, with the traps only superficially related to the sins of his prisoners. This is all the more jarring as the film repeatedly references what might be Kramer’s most famous device, the ‘reverse beartrap.’

Jigsaw seems more interested in exploring Jigsaw“the man,” than it is in reproducing or updating his methods for the current day. Despite the fact that no one has heard of or seen the killer since Saw 3D in 2010, the film constantly references back to him, with most of its runtime little more than a slow build up to Bell’s brilliant but brief appearance. The man and his voice – heard on the tapes that the victims have to play – are undoubtedly the film’s highlights, and this new instalment thankfully does not depart from Jigsaw’s most amusing habit: his words of advice are always outrageously, painfully literal. There’s always money in the banana stand. He’s still having a hell of a time.

Published 28 Oct 2017

Anticipation.

The Spierig brothers are very talented, and the Saw franchise is in great need of a revamp.

Enjoyment.

It isn’t bad, but the gore isn’t scary, and the traps not fun enough.

In Retrospect.

This is competent, but after seven years, and with the Spierig brothers on board, we all expected more.

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