Jigsaw (2017, dir. Michael & Peter Spierig) takes place 10 years after the death of John Kramer, or Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell). Bodies from a new game taking place begin appearing in public spaces with jigsaw pieces taken out of their skin. John Kramer is suspected to somehow be back from the dead carrying out tests with evidence of his revival going as far as his corpse missing when his grave is dug up. However, in classic Saw fashion the twist at the film’s finale unravels the truth behind all events that have taken place in a confusing but somewhat clever way.
First of all, I know many Saw fans were very confused by the plot of this film and how it fit into the rest of the series – but, the Saw franchise is a confusing mess anyway. The entire series is known for its plot holes, retcons, and constantly bringing John back from the dead via flashbacks because he was killed off too soon. The timeline of events for the entire series in general requires a map because there’s so much happening. It’s a complex franchise that’s attempting to create a crazy fleshed out story out of the simple idea the first film had and as such it’s prone to being ridiculous and confusing. Saw is just one of those franchises where you’re either down with the chaos or not – I, for one, am down with the ridiculousness of this series and am able to suspend my disbelief.
Jigsaw is not the worst film in the franchise, however it’s not memorable either. The largest strength Jigsaw has is the plot and narrative structure. It effectively brings together these small details placed throughout the film which only fit together after the final reveal is made. I can say, too, that for a moment Jigsaw really made me believe they resurrected John even though it’s not the first time the series has used this plot device – I don’t know, I guess I just got too excited to see him. I believe Jigsaw is fairly structurally sound, more so than some of the other entries in the series, and I say this purely because the twist/reveal didn’t require a lot of brain power to make sense of what I had just watched. The new apprentice however did irk me a little as they are a random person created for the sole purpose of this film and have never shown up in the previous 7 films. In fact, the reason why or how they became one of Jigsaw’s apprentices – or those who have survived traps, shown clear understanding of John’s message, and John then handpicks to continue carrying on his work – is laughable. It’s described simply as: I was in this trap but Jigsaw felt bad for me and changed his mind. Which, when you break it down like that, makes this new apprentice sound like a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character. Jigsaw’s previous apprentices Amanda, Gordon, and Hoffman all have a reason to be within the position they were placed – this new apprentice does not.
If Saw has never been your thing due to the gore and torture, I have good news for you! Jigsaw might be the least gruesome and bloody installment within the franchise. As I mentioned, Jigsaw is not a memorable piece out of the franchise and this is primarily due to the lack of creativity when it comes to the traps. Since the first film in 2004, the Saw franchise has been known for it’s brutal killings and described by many as “torture porn.” The way the characters die is a giant reason why people go to see these films, if not the only reason for some. So when the series known for its uncomfortable self-inflicted torture sequences has a new film that hardly even has blood in it…it’s not good. A large portion of Saw’s audience flock to it because of its brutality, and if one makes a sequel that performs as if it’s trying to step away from that then yes, of course the audience will hate it because it’s taking away the main reason to be in the seat.
Lastly, I just want to point out that Jigsaw, visually, was way too clean and bright to be a Saw film. This aspect bothered me more than anything else because of my own personal rage towards the sterilization of sets that have previously been and are supposed to be filthy and disgusting. For example, I had an issue with the newest season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia because it was too clean and sterile when the show has always been so grungy and based in filth (especially on Charlie and Frank’s side). Not only were the traps in Jigsaw too medically sterile for my liking, but the location was an abandoned barn that looked as if a wild animal had never set foot in the place. The lighting was blindingly bright from the sunlight leaking in and aside from a few bales of hay the barn looked spotless and too much like a set than a real location. Saw films are traditionally dark, grungy, and dirty with the only lighting being a damp green or orange buzzing bulb. The abandoned locations in the other films are believably abandoned and decayed. Jigsaw is too Hollywood; too clean; too safe; too bright; too focused on the wrong things. Jigsaw absolutely lacks a lot of what makes the franchise what it is. However, it’s still not the worst because that title is reserved for next week’s review on Spiral.
Jigsaw – C Tier
Overall, Jigsaw is mediocre. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy happening but there are still some redeemable qualities. While the traps were nothing to write home about, I did really enjoy the lead up and reveal to one called The Cycle Trap. However, I like referring to it as The Jimmy Buffet Special because it looks like a giant Margaritaville blender. To add to my point of this installment being forgettable, I thought that I had never seen this movie but found myself thinking a lot of it seemed familiar. I kept searching for other Saw films that might’ve used the bucket helmets from the beginning only to find Jigsaw is the only film which has it. I definitely think I watched Jigsaw around the time it came out but so easily forgot about it that I believed this would be a new watch for me – that’s how little of an impact this film has.
Jigsaw is available for streaming through Amazon Prime Video and MGM+