There’s an old proverb that most of you have probably heard before. It’s “let sleeping dogs lie.” It means to leave things as they are to not further complicate matters. Well, this is one sleeping dog that certainly should’ve been left lying. The eighth entry into the Saw franchise was released this weekend. For some reason, Lionsgate felt the need to resurrect the corpse of the franchise to convolute a story that has already been convoluted to death with this new film, Jigsaw.
Last week in our State of the Franchise on the Saw series, we discussed how a new entry to the series had been rumored for years. The series met its predictable end with 2010’s Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. Now, seven years after the fact, the games have begun once again. A number of alumni return for this new film including producers, Mark Burg and Oren Koules, film editor, Kevin Greutert, and composer, Charlie Clouser. Original creators, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, also receive executive producers credits on Jigsaw. The Spierig Brothers, Michael and Peter, known for Predestination and Daybreakers, helm the director’s chairs this time around.
The film opens with a criminal, Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black), as he runs across rooftops after being tasked with starting a new Jigsaw game. He calls out Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) before he’s shot and goes into a coma. From here, Halloran and his partner, Detective Hunt (Clé Bennett), investigate as a series of bodies begin to pile up. They’re aided by a coroner, Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore), and his assistant, Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson), who find forensic evidence pointing to John Kramer/the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) as the main suspect.
Meanwhile, there’s Jigsaw’s new game being played. Five people wake up in a room with buckets on their heads. The rules of the game are explained to them over a loudspeaker while one of the participants doesn’t make it out of the first room. The four remaining people, move from room to room and face new challenges specific to each of them. The expectations are for them to confess their respective sins while also helping each other to survive.
Before we rip into the film too hard, it must be stated that Jigsaw definitely isn’t unwatchable. It actually does pretty well to keep your attention throughout most of its runtime. The traps are more scaled back than some of the overly complicated ones from the later sequels and the victims actually have a chance to save themselves and others. The acting is decent for the most part and characters like Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), and Ryan (Paul Braunstein), do a good job of drawing your interest. They don’t feel like complete throwaway characters as some of Jigsaw’s previous victims were. There’s also some good cinematography and special effects complemented by Charlie Clouser’s score.
However, that’s about it in terms of the positives of Jigsaw. The police procedural aspect is something that we’ve seen time and time again in the Saw series and it doesn’t feel the least bit fresh here. In fact, there’s so much exposition that’s revealed through the characters’ dialogue. The filmmakers don’t let the story simply unfold before you. Of course, this is spoiler-free so we can’t go into too much detail but the big twist ending is pretty much all exposition being recited by one character. There weren’t any clues or hints to allow the audience to figure out the twist for themselves. It’s an unbelievably shoddy attempt at storytelling and ruins the experience entirely.
Frankly, Jigsaw is a tough film to critique. The entire time you watch it, you’re just wondering why it exists. By the time you hit the ending, you’re frozen in shock at how idiotic and contrived the twist is. After seven years, this is what the filmmakers came up with to reboot the franchise? The original string of sequels weren’t perfect but they felt more concise and acceptable than this. On top of that, barely any of the remaining characters from previous installments return for this film. Where’s Dr. Gordon? What happened to Detective Hoffman? What do any of these new characters have to do with anything? Also, while the acting is decent, there really isn’t anyone to root for and no one to sympathize with.
When all’s said and done, Jigsaw is a cash grab. Lionsgate made a lot of money from the Saw films and they’re looking to do it once again. Up until the final half hour, this is a three star film. It’s not great but it’s entertaining enough to keep you interested. The last half hour is a maddening attempt to exploit the usual twist ending that Saw is known for. The problem with this is that the twist is stupid and, if you can’t figure it out for yourself due to the film not offering any semblance of a hint, it doesn’t belong in the movie. There’s absolutely no doubt that Jigsaw is the worst film in the series and should’ve never been made. Since someone felt the need to wake this sleeping dog up, hopefully it’ll be given the Old Yeller treatment after this completely unnecessary installment.