Story written by Tom G. Wolf
It’s been seven years since the Saw franchise last graced the big screen, with main villain Jigsaw ostensibly playing his final game in 2010’s Saw 3D. During the series’ absence from the multiplex, horror cinema has shifted quite substantially, with torture flicks largely falling out of vogue.
So, it’s fair to approach Jigsaw with a fair amount of scepticism. How many eighth films in a franchise are any good? (Expect for perhaps the exception of Star Wars).
Part sequel, part soft reboot, Jigsaw harkens back to obscure points of Saw lore while still trying to make the film accessible for a new generation of horror fans.
In practical terms, this means that the plot is standard Saw sequel fare. A killer is using Jigsaw’s methods of murders to enact mayhem on “wrongdoers”. Meanwhile, the police wonder if *gasp* the killer could be one of their own. As expected, a bunch of victims find themselves getting offed in all sorts of gruesome ways.
This would be a promising (if simple) set-up for a ‘90s made-for-TV movie, but the execution is decidedly poor. There are a few moments of genuine tension, and the film isn’t afraid to mess with your expectations about who might survive, but prepare to groan your way through the final moments. It only serves to highlight a key problem with the franchise itself – namely, its overreliance on twist endings. While the one at the end of the first film was an appropriately surprising moment, the law of diminishing returns has well and truly kicked in at this point.
However, weaknesses in plot can be forgiven if the gore is up to scratch – so how does that play out?
Well, it’s definitely present, but it’s surprisingly understated in comparison to some of the previous iterations of the series. There are a few impressive moments, but nothing as uncomfortable as, say, the exploding ribcage in the third film or the needle pit in the second. Part of this may be due to budgetary constraints, but some of the nihilism inherent in the franchise has also been removed as a result. In tandem with the overall thin plot, it makes for a mediocre final product.
Jigsaw is ultimately an amusing but disposable entry in the series. It’s not the triumphant return fans might have hoped for. But given that it’s doing brisk business at the US box office, we suspect the series will get at least one more chance to redeem itself on the big screen.
Jigsaw is released nationally on 2 November.