Overview: The legacy of the Jigsaw killer continues. Again. Lionsgate Films; 2017; Rated R; 91 minutes.
Playing the Same Game: Jigsaw doesn’t present anything noteworthy for a return of the tortuous franchise, lacking the staying power of the better sequels. However, it may prove to be enjoyable enough for fans of the series looking for nothing other than cheap kills with cheap thrills. When a singular series of films is boxed in with specific low budget gimmicks, there are only so many directions the film can take.
It’s been an issue with the series since the first sequel. Innocent victims are revealed to be no-to-innocent, playing a tumultuous game of survival against the maniacal psychopath. But the stakes feel one-sided, always tossing hapless civilians into a series of deathtraps. Jigsaw also lacks the counter-balance to progress the stakes. At least in Saw II, Detective Matthews serves as a good enough foil for the film’s run-time, right up until the end where you realize Matthews was being played the whole time. That subversion nearly worked once, it’s stunning that it hasn’t been replicated or tried again. Nothing evolves other than the traps, each more ridiculous than what came before in a previous film. It’s more of the same.
Paint by New Numbers: The frame of traps seems more in line with quick cut, not intentionally meant to disorient but to give trap activation a thud and punch. When the outrageous traps feel familiar, it loses the necessary impact for a movie like this. It’s not a situation where the film feels careless or lazy, rather it’s a dud only confined to sticking to formula. But it’s a formula only in the most sterile sense. Even more concerning is the revelation of the central mystery, feeling like an aftermath or side story that would benefit a comic book release alongside the premiere of a real Saw sequel. It may as well have been called Jigsaw: A Saw Story.
While this was a missed opportunity in terms of evolution, at the very least, Jigsaw aims for a more fun-house horror style vibe than the dingy, previous Saw films. The look of Jigsaw, while more colorful, also has a lessened nastiness that makes it feel distinctly un-Saw. The color palette is occasionally brighter, not always insistent on looking like a low rent ripoff of Se7en. Though maybe that would work better here as it at least gave the series an astute look that would later be copied by countless other low budget horror films. This is an admirable attempt to differentiate itself form its predecessors, though never fully achieving more than a subversion in palette from time to time.
Overall: When James Wan’s first Saw swung for the fences, for better or worse, it redefined the modern approach to the horror genre. “Hello Zepp” is one of the most recognizable themes in horror now, mechanical and horrifying but not lifeless. Pale imitations attempting to ape that same audience have all faltered significantly, as did many of Saw‘s own sequels. It’s a shame to see Jigsaw suffer the same fate. But if you’ve enjoyed the Saw series up to this point, including the more maligned entries, you might just find something worth checking out.
Featured Image: Lionsgate Films