It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s time for studios to cash in on a horror sequel nobody asked for! That’s right, today I had the chance to catch a showing of Jigsaw. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I’m a huge geek that used to frequent the IMDB boards since the release of Saw 2 and throw about theories with other like-minded users. Which made the gradual decline of the franchise all the more depressing to witness. It was like a train wreck that kept happening, over and over; and yet I came back for more every year. When it was finally over I felt relieved that I could finally walk away from the franchise with a semi sense of closure. That is, until someone decided that the bloody pulp of what was once a horse hadn’t been beaten enough and went ahead with Jigsaw. Plot twist! I’ll keep this review spoiler free… or will I?
The Good: There are no familiar faces here. I know that sounds weird as a good thing, but to be honest things started to get a bit confusing with the later Saw entries. Keeping track of who was who and how they betrayed so-and-so started to get a bit too much like a soap opera and really made the whole plot confusing for the general audience. I was glad to see that they brought in an entire new cast as sort of a reboot to the series. I’ll also add that all of the people on the police force had an enjoyable presence in the film and they were really the ones driving the story forward.
The sense of mystery in the Saw franchise is what always kept me coming back for more. I’ve never been a huge fan of torture in horror films just for the hell of it. Since it was an entire new cast with a story similar to what we’ve seen before, I was trying to sort out who would most likely be the disciple of Jigsaw the entire film. You may or may not be able to piece together what’s happening by the end, but I certainly didn’t by the time the plot twist reveal happened. I feel that it also filled in a couple missing pieces from the last film (IE; who was the other, other, other Jigsaw apprentice?) so that was kind of nice too.
The little references/throwbacks had me pretty excited as well. If you’ve put yourself through all of the previous films, you’ll probably catch a few parallels as well as the explicit showing of some of the old “traps”. I think the idea of this (as most reboots go) was to bring in a new audience that didn’t feel like muscling through seven movies. If you hadn’t seen any of the previous films, this does a pretty good job of painting what kind of psychopath Jigsaw was. You can absolutely watch this movie and understand it from start to finish without having seen any of the previous installments.
The Bad: Unfortunately, also as most of the Saw films go, there’s really zero character development for the meat… Er… the people stuck in the games. Character development is a crucial part of a good horror film. If they’re not fleshed out (no pun intended) then as an audience member it’s difficult to feel sympathetic for the situation they’re in. If you’re unsympathetic to characters, then really the point of the entire story is meaningless. This is the major pitfall of the Saw franchise as a whole; it’s too focused on the over-the-top ways to torture people and puts minimal effort into the characters.
Did I say over-the-top ways to torture people? Oh that’s probably because they found a way to make the “traps” even more elaborate and ridiculous. See, the beauty of the first Saw film was that it was very psychological. It’s a simple idea, chain up two people in a room and tell them to kill each other to get out. The rest of the movie focuses on why they’re the victims and struggling to come to terms with the inevitable. Shades of this carried over in Saw 2. While it was on a bigger playing field, it still focused on simple but painful things in each room. From Saw 3 going forward, the more simplistic style disappeared and out came the crazy, engineered torture devices. This film is no different and each room is some engineering marvel until the final room (which actually dials it back a bit).
The Judgment: This has the flavor of most of the Saw films after Saw 3. It’s clearly setting the stage for more sequels, assuming that it has some financial success. It was certainly better than the past few entries, but that’s not really saying too much. This is one of those movies that I walked out of thinking it could have been a lot better and it could have been a lot worse. I can’t say whether or not I’ll get invested in any future installments but I’m not upset that I watched this. It can definitely wait for rental unless you’re a diehard Saw fan that needs to see where this ship is headed.