by Ian Davies
There’s something enthralling, even relishable about the outlandish mythology pedalled in the Saw septology that’s kept us entertained, year after year, whilst we wince with glee at each increasingly macabre trap. The originator of the loathed “torture porn” sub-genre of horror that blighted the 00s was annual event viewing for my sister and I, who would travel to visit me at Uni on opening night every year just to see the latest instalment. After a seven year gap, what could Jigsaw possibly do to lure us back in?
Jigsaw; dir: Michael and Peter Spierig; USA 2017, 91 mins. Our rating: ★★★/5
Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) is called to a standoff between one of his regular detainees and the police, where cries of “the game’s starting!” immediately raise suspicion. John Kramer, our beloved Jigsaw Killer, has been dead for ten years. He couldn’t possibly be back, they cry! We did an autopsy and everything! Dead’s never dead in horror though, and we cut to a game that has started, full of questions about morality, and justice. And blood. Lots of blood. As the bodies start to pile up and appear in public, Halloran and his cohorts, including two peculiar morticians, now have a race against time to find out if Jigsaw truly is back and stop the game.
It’s a Saw film, alright. You can set your watch to the beat of each plot development, every “twist” and not be surprised in the slightest. Jigsaw’s intent is to introduce the staple Saw concepts to a new, socially active teen demographic, and as such, the mythology built up over the previous seven films is pretty much jettisoned.
What remains is an entertaining enough ninety minutes, with some interesting traps and enough red herrings to engage interest in the mechanics of the plot past some truly banal acting (another Saw hallmark). What the Spierig brothers have done is give the series a slightly fresher look and feel. Gone is the grimy, muted palette of the original series whilst retaining the trademark look of the traps for the series diehards.
Let me level with you – I love the original Saw films. Was a reboot really necessary? Probably not. Without a lot to say – perhaps that’s part of the charm of the originals – Jigsaw ultimately feels a tad too safe, almost restrained without enough innovation to compensate. The script throws up a couple of decent concepts around the Cult of Jigsaw that don’t get explored enough for my liking. But then, most people watching a Saw film are there for the gore; on that front, it’s entertaining enough. Welcome back, Saw. It’s like you never left.