Review by Thad Timothy; writer, Cult Classic Horror
Review Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Starring: Tobin Bell, Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Clé Bennett, Josiah Black
Directed by Michael & Peter Spierig
Written by: Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stoleberg
About the Film
You know him, you love him, you won’t live without him. Tobin Bell returns as mental moral mastermind John Kramer in 2017’s “Jigsaw.” Even though Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010) was originally intended to be the final film of the Saw series, Lionsgate Studios announced in 2012 that they were contemplating rebooting the series. In 2016 they announced Jigsaw (2017) as being in development. Jigsaw opened theatrically on October 27th, 2017 to mixed reviews from critics who labeled the film as being adequate for fans of the franchise but not likely to gain a new audience. The film’s debut earned the number one spot at the box office but marked the second lowest debut of the franchise besting only 2009’s Saw VI.
The film opens with a police chase during which criminal Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black) leads officers to a rooftop where he retrieves a trigger mechanism planted behind a large red “X.” While keeping the officers at bay with the device, Munsen demands the presence of Police Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) stating that five people will die if he does not arrive to the scene within seventeen minutes. Upon Det. Halloran’s arrival, Munsen informs him that the “game” has begun and he (Munsen) must choose between his life and the lives of the other five. Before being non-fatally wounded, Munsen chooses himself by activating the trigger mechanism and setting the “game” in motion.
We are soon introduced to five people being held captive in a barn, each with a metal noose around their neck and metal bucket over their head. The tape recorded voice of John Kramer (a.k.a. Jigsaw) explains they must give a sacrifice of blood and confess their sins as their chains pull them towards a wall of spinning buzz saws. Keeping with the franchise theme, the film leads us through a series of tests where the sins and nature of its victims are revealed. Survivors of each test are given another chance at repentance while those who fail meet gruesome fates as they succumb to a number of saw-esque contraptions.
Meanwhile Det. Halloran waits for Munsen to awaken from his medically-induced coma but before Munsen comes to, mutilated bodies begin to surface in public places throughout the city each donning a message from the mysterious killer. With the help of forensics pathologist Dr. Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) and his associate Eleanor Bonneville (Hannah Emily Anderson), Det. Hallloran and partner Det. Hunt (Clé Bennett) determine that all evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years. As the mystery unfolds suspicions are shifted from character to character leaving viewers anxious for the inevitable twist. Is seedy Det. Halloran behind these murders or could it be his partner Det. Hunt who appears to have his own agenda? Perhaps the tortured past of Dr. Nelson has rendered him insane and led to murder or maybe his Jigsaw-obsessed associate Eleanor is carrying on her idol’s legacy. Or could it be that Jigsaw himself has cheated death and resumed his life’s work?
My Review (without spoilers)
“Jigsaw” does a good job of making an old story new again, well as new as it can be at least. The two storylines in this film, victims inside the game and suspects outside of the game, do compete at times which can get confusing but all is revealed at the end and should leave the avid Saw fan satisfied. With its focus being more on the mystery than the gore, although there is plenty, “Jigsaw” felt more reminiscent of the first film rather than the sequels which I personally didn’t mind. Although some of the methods of death are familiar the scenery and overall focus of the film provided enough “different” to satisfy fans and keep the retreaded wheels on this bandwagon trucking. Despite the film’s major plot twist and reveal, the scene I found to be most creative involves a test between two participants with one shotgun and one bullet. I won’t spoil it for you but I consider it to be one of the best in the entire series.
I recommend this film for those who know and love the Saw franchise as it touches on a lot of history that those who are familiar will appreciate and those who aren’t may not catch. Though it’s difficult for an eighth installment to completely stand alone, Jigsaw came as close as it could to breathing new life into a supposedly “dead” franchise. I give it 3.5 out of 5 saw blades.
Additional Trivia (minor spoilers)
- This is the first and only “Saw” film to be released more than a year after its predecessor.
- The film was originally titled “Saw: Legacy.”
- The first film of the franchise to have Tobin Bell’s character’s name displayed in the title.
- This is the second film in the series to be filmed digitally. The first was SAW 3D (2010).
- Tobin Bell is the only cast member to appear in all eight films as well as the only actor to reprise his role form the previous seven installments.
- With the exception of Jigsaw’s wife “Jill Tuck,” none of the characters from the first seven films are featured or mentioned.
- The body count in this film totals nine.
- Is the second film in the franchise to not incorporate the line “Game Over” during its finale.
- A scene towards the end of this film suggests the possibility of another film being made.