Thirteen years ago, on Halloween weekend – SAW and the character of JIGSAW introduced the world to a new face of horror. For seven straight years “If it’s Halloween it must be SAW” was a holiday tradition. This October 27… Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures proudly present JIGSAW! After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement find themselves chasing the ghost of a man dead for over a decade and embroiled in a new game that’s only just begun. Is John Kramer back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of their own?
October 27, 2017
Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg
Michael and Peter Spierig
Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, and Callum Keith Rennie
They should have called it Jig-Snore.
Believe me, I take no pleasure in trashing a bad film, but this one deserves it. And before you accuse me of being a Saw and/or torture porn hater: Bite your tongue! I’m a huge fan of the original Saw, and Saw II was a worthy sequel. At the same time, I’m objective about the fact that every sequel since has been varying degrees of total crap. So, what did I expect from Jigsaw, the 8th installment in the long-running yet recently-dormant franchise that was once a Halloween staple? After a 7-year hiatus, I expected more than this—and you should too. When franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th are begging for reboots, and Halloween 2018 already in the forefront of horror fan’s brains, there’s no excuse for giving us the worst chapter in the entire Saw franchise and dressing it up like a tasty holiday treat.
Official Synopsis: Thirteen years ago, on Halloween weekend – SAW and the character of JIGSAW introduced the world to a new face of horror. For seven straight years “If it’s Halloween it must be SAW” was a holiday tradition. This October 27… Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures proudly present JIGSAW! After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement find themselves chasing the ghost of a man dead for over a decade and embroiled in a new game that’s only just begun. Is John Kramer back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of their own?
Jigsaw is directed by Michael and Peter Spierig from a script penned by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg (shame on you all!); the film stars Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, and Callum Keith Rennie.
I know that complaining about a film’s continuity is the lowest common denominator of analysis and criticism. Once you start complaining that such-and-such character couldn’t possibly have had time to lay all the groundwork for the perfect crime, you start down a slippery slope, one that suggests films must accurately represent physical reality in order to be deemed successful. In actuality, nothing could be farther from the truth: As a work of fiction, a film has every license to play fast and loose with timing in order to emphasize powerful storytelling. And ask yourself: Should characters in films take bathroom breaks at reasonable intervals, too, in the name of realism and continuity? Of course not! So, we accept that we’re being given a forced perspective (one that filters out the excess), and in the case of Jigsaw, we have to expect at least a bit of retroactive continuity, as 99% of the characters from past Saw films (including the titular killer himself) are all dead.
So why am I taking Jigsaw to task? The film presents itself as a riddle and asks you to crack the mystery—but the game is rigged from the get-go. There’s an episode of Bob’s Burgers (stay with me now) where Linda Blecher holds a mystery dinner theater at the restaurant. She opens by telling the guests that everyone is a suspect—except her. It’s revealed at the end of the performance, though, that Linda was indeed the killer the whole time. When the crowd protests, she replies, “What? It’s a twist!” No, it’s a lie. And Jigsaw is guilty of perpetrating this same type of boldfaced untruth, putting us on a case but withholding vital information. And while plot-holes are another thing that must be forgiven when looking at a film in its entirety, Jigsaw’s are so big they actually imply the presence of characters who don’t exist.
Don’t believe me? When watching the film, ask yourself: Who hit the dirty cop with a syringe full of drugs? If there are only 2 people in the room besides him, it must be one or the other, right? But what if the other two are unconscious? Then there must have been someone else in the room with them. But this isn’t a case of, “Oh, Jigsaw has lots of followers, so it must have been another random protégé” and those who do plunk down the dollars to see the movie will agree. After being tossed that pathetic excuse for a Deus Machina, you’ll completely forget about how impossible the Act 2 body swap must have been; in comparison, that boner is just a blip.
Am I asking too much of a movie? I think not! If you go back and re-watch the first Saw, you’ll realize there were clues pointing to the fact that John Kramer (played by Tobin Bell) was the killer, even before the big reveal. Sure, it might take 10 times, but you’ll begin to see a picture that places the seemingly innocuous cancer patient dead center. What’s worse, naming the film Jigsaw is actually a disservice to John Kramer’s good (bad?) name. In Saw III, Kramer killed his most trusted and loyal protégé; her crime: Designing a trap that didn’t really offer its victim a chance for redemption. She broke a cardinal rule. And that’s what Jigsaw does: It puts us in a trap for 90 minutes, commands us to put our thinking caps on, then delivers a series of “twists” that can’t possibly be predicted and, worse, are used as cheap subterfuge for a truly dull script. In the end, our efforts to decipher (not to mention our excitement for the franchise’s return) were all for naught, and Jigsaw shreds our ribcages and spits in our faces (metaphorically, of course).
Look, dropping a ton of new info regarding John Kramer’s past isn’t exciting if it only serves to explain a boring sequel that shouldn’t exist in the first place. All that does is muddy the waters of what’s already the most complex franchise of the 21st Century. Nobody’s got time for that. All Jigsaw archives is making us wonder if perhaps John Kramer has a secret, identical twin we never knew about. (Spoiler: He doesn’t). We get a few new traps, but nothing as exciting as what we’ve seen in past installments. What’s meant to be Jigsaw’s greatest accomplishment is little more than an oversized garbage disposal. And we get new characters, one of which (Eleanor Bonneville played by Hannah Emily Anderson) is legitimately compelling. But the other newbies are just the usual, recycled victims and misguided proteges. Nothing to see here, folks.
Bottom Line: Jigsaw is the worst installment in the Saw franchise—and that’s really saying something. While it’s always a pleasure seeing Tobin Bell in action, and Hannah Emily Anderson is a scene-stealer who proves she deserves top billing, the movie is an affront to those of us who love the Saw films the most. It doesn’t work as a prequel, sequel, reboot, or standalone. Worst of all: It’s boring.