Directed by Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig.
Starring Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black, and Mandela Van Peebles.
A series of grisly murders point to Jigsaw killer John Kramer as the suspect but he has been dead for 10 years… hasn’t he?
So with the inevitability that comes when one of your franchise movies has the subtitle ‘The Final Chapter’, the Saw franchise is resurrected to continue into a new era of horror movies, only this time under the guise of Jigsaw, just to let you know that – box office receipts depending – this is not just a continuation of the horror franchise that defined the 2000s but a new take on what is now regarded as a classic series that we can look back upon with the same nostalgic affection that we give Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact, if you look at the 81-minute I Speak for the Dead: The Legacy of Saw documentary that accompanies the movie on the disc the cast and crew cannot help but tell you several times over that this is not a retread of something old but a modern take on a popular series that some felt still had legs.
Well, luckily for those involved Jigsaw did quite well theatrically so somebody was right. Had it sunk without a trace then this movie could have been written off and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter would have remained as the fitting swansong to what was the most successful horror franchise since Friday the 13th, but here we are with plans afoot to make a sequel. For now, though, Jigsaw plays out with alarming familiarity as a new group of victims are hauled in to face off against John Kramer’s traps. But how so? Didn’t Kramer (a returning Tobin Bell) die at the end of Saw III? Yes he did but, as is the case with these movies, don’t believe everything you see – let us not forget, they made four more Saw movies after Kramer’s on-screen demise – and such is the familiarity and now, bizarrely, comfortable nature of the formula that we can watch Jigsaw with prior knowledge and figure out how it is going to unfold.
But despite the predictable nature of the plot – even though writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg try and throw in a few red herrings that very nearly work – it is quite a fun ride getting to that point where Charlie Clouser’s score kicks in and all the bits you may have missed while people were being mangled are revealed in their entirety. The Saw movies became the icon for extreme torture porn horror during the last decade and those looking for more graphic bloodshed from Jigsaw won’t be disappointed despite the writers and producers all insisting that this movie is less about the gore and more of a crime thriller like James Wan’s original movie; don’t kid yourselves guys, for while it may not be as gritty or violent as Saw III or IV this does have some genuinely nasty moments. The slick digital look to the movie is something of a contrast to the washed-out grainy aesthetic of the older films but the lighting helps keep the ominous tone and the final kill is worth sticking around for, as it is in keeping with the extreme nature of previous set pieces but with a modern update that works wonderfully, especially as it was telegraphed early on if you watch carefully.
It goes without saying that if you are not a fan of Saw’s particular brand of torture and brutality then Jigsaw is unlikely to change your mind as, in the nicest possible way, it is more of the same but with a cosmetic polish. Directors Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers) stick very closely to the formula that elevated the previous movies above being mere blood-soaked torture for the sake of it and despite the meandering nature of the dual plots going on – the now-traditional police procedural being shown alongside the new victims being tested – when it all comes together at the end you cannot help but be mesmerised and question how you missed all the vital details. As well as the aforementioned I Speak for the Dead: The Legacy of Saw documentary the disc also includes The Choice is Yours: Exploring the Props featurette and an audio commentary with producers Mark Burg, Oren Koules and Peter Block, all of which are really fluff pieces with most of the cast telling you how awesome it is to be in a Saw movie (except it isn’t a Saw movie, it’s a new thing, blah, blah, blah…) and the producers justifying why they made it in the first place. The most interesting contributions come from Tobin Bell, who seems to have really embraced the character of Jigsaw/John Kramer in the same way that Robert Englund and Doug Bradley embraced Freddy Krueger and Pinhead respectively, and his perspective is a little less gushy and more earnest. Overall, Jigsaw works as the Saw sequel that it is, with the traps being inventive, the kills still being brutal but with a knowing sense of fun that was lacking in all but the last of the original run of films and Tobin Bell totally owning his role as the titular character so for what you were expecting it does tick all the boxes. The downside is that the victims really are just that – bodies chained up ready for the slaughter with no proper ‘characters’ amongst them, and despite its reputation the original Saw movies did have memorable characters all the way through it – and the slick look to the film is a little incongruous if you were planning a marathon of all the movies. Nevertheless, Jigsaw does continue the Saw legacy faithfully and, for the most part, exceed expectations for what could have been a totally different exercise in torture.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★