Jigsaw, the eighth Saw film, is one of the better films in the franchise. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.
Much like its predecessors, Jigsaw is about a group of seemingly random people trapped in a horrific game where their deepest secrets must be revealed in order to escape violent, deadly traps. At the same time, a group of authority figures is trying to solve a mystery tangentially attached to the game. At the end, as expected, the stories converge with some big revelations. You know. A Saw movie.
There no doubt about it, Jigsaw follows the formula to a T. And the Spierig Brothers, who directed the film, have come up with some cool, gory, gross new games for the victims to play. For many people going to a Saw movie, that’s enough right there, but on the plus side, Jigsaw also has an intriguing mystery to it.
Jigsaw is set several years after the previous films, although you don’t need to know much about those films (it certainly doesn’t hurt, however). It’s not really an eighth movie in the franchise as much as it is a reboot, but the time passed is important, specifically the fact that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died pretty early in the Saw movies and everyone believes he’s still dead. So who is killing these people? Is it Jigsaw? How would that be possible? And if it’s not him, which of the characters we’re watching is the killer? Because it’s always one of the characters we’re watching.
That sort of horror whodunit is the best part of Jigsaw and, I’ll admit, the payoff here is suitably surprising and fun. But again, that’s just a Saw movie being a Saw movie. That’s two checks in the plus column: scary games and a good twist. There’s still the rest of the movie to consider and, boy, is the rest of the movie not good.
The biggest mark against Jigsaw is it’s simply not scary. There are brief moments of tension but nothing impactful. And trust me, I know that the previous Saw movies were never exactly terrifying, but at least you were on the edge of your seat a bit. That’s dialed way down here. Then there’s the gore, another crucial factor in a franchise that helped define “torture porn.” The gore in Jigsaw is not that gory; there’s a moment or two, sure, but the majority of the film feels relatively tame versus what audiences can normally expect from a Saw movie.
So that sucks. The acting and dialogue also suck. Most of the actors in the film are either relative unknowns or background, working actors, with faces that may look familiar but you cannot place. They all do their best, of course, but the script by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg doesn’t give them much to work with. The result is a lot of one-dimensional characters overacting or giving intense deliveries of cheesy lines that are much more cringeworthy than cool. You certainly won’t care whether any of them live or die, and that’s not helpful for creating tension or emotion.
It also doesn’t help that the plot is so damn confusing. Part of this is because it’s specifically designed to keep audiences guessing until the end, and the twist does clear up some of it. But only some of it. You will still have plenty of questions after you walk out of the theater. How did this character find that one? Why did this character jump to that conclusion? A major example is from Jigsaw’s game, where every time someone dies, the body somehow appears outside the barn (where the players are imprisoned) for the other characters to find. How does the timing on that work? How does the killer take the bodies out of the barn without the living players seeing who he is, or even seeing him at all?
This is kind of covered by the twist, but it’s one of several simple omissions that took me out of the movie. A bunch of muddled, weird tangents and things just make things worse. There’s a thread about military buddies, a Jigsaw super fan, police corruption, and more. Lab results are produced impossibly fast, doctors perform autopsies then start going out as detectives... it’s all just so disjointed.
If you go see this movie, chances are you’ll be watching for one answer alone: Is Jigsaw alive? Obviously, I’m not telling. But what I will say is there’s a reason this movie isn’t called “Saw 8.” It comes next chronologically in series, but make no mistake about it—everything in Jigsaw is designed to set up another run of these movies. Which is yet another a problem, because it means the film leaves too many loose ends dangling, which makes the ending considerably less satisfying than it could have been.
After watching Jigsaw, it’s pretty obvious this franchise doesn’t have the same buzz it used to. This is a reboot, but I think it needed a reset, a whole new game. Instead, Jigsaw is the same as the films that came before it, using the same formula, but producing considerably less excitement. It does have its good moments, but, ultimately, the film didn’t leave me desperate for more. In fact, it didn’t leave me wanting anymore at all.
Jigsaw is now in theaters.