Saw was brutally simple, spending much of its runtime in a small room with two men chained to opposite walls with a corpse between them. A saw, and a way out: Cut off your foot if you want to live. The villain was a moralist, punishing his victims for perceived faults. The brilliant premise kept the budget down and begged viewers to consider if they’d cut off their own foot to survive. The next six installments in the franchise invested their substantially larger budgets (from $1,200,000 for Saw steadily increasing to an estimated $20,000,000 for Saw 3D) in inventing more creative kills. They were fun as far as the gore could carry, but didn’t always make sense. It hurt their box office take enough that after seven years of Halloween releases, viewers had to wait seven years between 2010’s Saw 3D and this year’s Jigsaw.
In Jigsaw, five people are kidnapped and put through torture machines while being cajoled to confess, and to self-mutilate their way to survival. On the other end, the police are finding the bodies and trying to figure out who the killer could be. John Kramer, also known as Jigsaw, is very, very dead. Ten years dead in movie time.
Unfortunately, Jigsaw has a lot more in common with Saw’s six sequels than the original. There are new machines, many of which were revealed in the trailer. There’s quite a difference between seeing the tease of one of Jigsaw’s machines and seeing it in action on a movie theater screen. There is cringeworthy torture and gore, and an excellent final kill, but the movie doesn’t offer much outside of that.
The police don’t function with any sort of logic. Sometimes the medical examiners wait for the body in their lab, and when it’s convenient for the plot, they examine the body at the actual scene. They jump to immediate conclusions about the gauge of bullet used or the type of poison without any tests. These examiners, played by Matt Passmore and Hannah Emily Anderson, are good enough to eyeball it. Of course, their skill means that they are the only potential culprits that the detectives, played by Callum Keith Rennie and Clé Bennett, suspect in any meaningful way.
The lack of reasonable character motivation extends to the killer, who was near omniscient, ferreting out his victim’s crimes. One of them was being punished for causing a car accident where he distracted the driver with his drunken antics. The problem being that everyone else in the car died and there were no witnesses. The killer couldn’t possibly know. The killer also springs plans that require him to be able to predict the other characters totally irrational behavior. At one point, the killer lures a detective into an abandoned farmhouse. Luckily the detective hasn’t told anyone where he’s going or what he’s doing because that’s how police work. The plan couldn’t possibly work if the detective had.
The victims are nondescript, almost having no personality beyond their generic transgressions. One of the pleasures of Saw was watching Adam and Dr. Gordon try to come up with plans to survive, which revealed so much about the way they thought. The victims in Jigsaw weren’t allowed that agency. As a result, the viewer doesn’t get to spend time trying to compose their own escape. Each one ended quickly and the next started right away.
The twist, necessary for the survival of the franchise in fairness, is clumsily executed and left me confused about what exactly had been happening throughout the movie and where the bodies the police had been finding were coming from. I have no doubt what the producers were going for though. Easy money.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Writers: Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg
Stars: Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson
Studio/ Production Co: Serendipity Productions, Twisted Pictures
Release date: October 27th, 2017
Length: 91 min