“You know what happens if we don’t play by the rules.”
If you haven’t heard of the Saw franchise, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Spanning over eight films, two video games, and a few theme park attractions, it seems like we can’t get enough of it. To this day, the first film is one of my favourite horror films and one that I’ve revisited several times. The recent instalment in the Jigsaw Killer’s legacy is set ten years later, and John Kramer has been dead ever since he got his throat slashed by Jeff Denlon in Saw III. (remember that? Seems like so long ago) The problem is, more bodies keep washing up and everyone’s finger is pointing toward Jigsaw. But that’s not possible, is it?
So, what did I think of Jigsaw? I’ve taken a while to sit down and properly consider this, and I’ve decided that whilst it’s an enjoyable film, it’s nothing special either. It’s one of those films that finds itself being placed into the “good, but not great” category. I can’t bring myself to completely rip it apart, but I don’t want to give it too much praise either. I’ll do my best to explain myself throughout the review.
In classic Saw style, our newest victims are flawed, selfish and full of hidden sins that they do their best to hide. Unfortunately for them, in this universe you can’t even ignore a parking ticket without Jigsaw and his gang grabbing you and finding some way to punish you. It’s a rough world to live in. In a way, this film reminded me of Saw II, as we see multiple victims waking up in the same place, yelling at each other, and figuring out how they’re going to make it out alive. Praise has to be given for the use of flashbacks and the way character’s stories and flaws are revealed to us, as it keeps you guessing throughout and wondering just how innocent these people really are. I was disappointed in some of the acting but I tried not to let that bother me too much and focus on the story instead.
For most Saw fans, the thing that gets you the most excited is the new traps. Throughout the previous films we’ve seen an array of terrifying creations built by Kramer, and the grisly results of being placed within them. Whilst these traps were interesting and the reasoning behind them well explained through tapes, they were nowhere near as good as their predecessors. I didn’t like the way the film cut away to the investigation halfway through traps either, as I felt that made it less unsettling for the viewers. For me, part of the reason why Saw is such an effective horror franchise is because it doesn’t cut away from the action and leaves you feeling uncomfortable, squeamish and forces you as a spectator to be part of the games. Cutting away from that certainly doesn’t have the same effect.
Jigsaw’s character is the main reason why I’m giving it three stars instead of two. To this date he’s one of my favourite horror antagonists and his dialogue is always well thought out, chilling and perfectly delivered. Tobin Bell is the perfect guy for the role and always impresses me with his performance, even if it is just his voice. This film was no exception and it was great to hear that oh-so familiar voice throughout the tapes. It’s his voice and his words that are a central part of the story, and I’m glad they were given as much attention to detail as they were across the rest of the franchise.
Finally, I felt conflicted about some of the special effects in this film. In some places, it’s really well done (and got a unanimous “ewww” from the audience in my screening), but in others the CGI is just awful. It seems a shame that there’s some inconsistency here as sometimes I found myself smirking at just how awful it looked, as opposed to feeling genuinely grossed out. I think the filmmakers got too ambitious, and perhaps should’ve adopted a “less is more” approach rather than trying to go all out and failing.
If you’re a long time fan of the Saw franchise, I’d definitely recommend you go and see it because it’s an experience and worth seeing. I don’t regret buying a ticket, but I won’t be rushing out to buy it on DVD any time soon either.