Jigsaw is a a Saw-lovers delight, paying homage to the creatively gory horror franchise by providing a fresh look on familiar content. The Spierig Brothers bring technical mastery to the series, while writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg pen a clever, yet semi-familiar script that is full of traps and self-sacrifice.
It has been seven long years since Kevin Gruetert‘s Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. Since then, franchise fans (such as myself) have been wondering if The Final Chapter‘s shaggy non-ending was all that we were going to see of Jigsaw, iconically played in both on-screen life and on-screen death by Tobin Bell. Yet here we are with Jigsaw, directed by The Spierig Brothers and written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. As is, Jigsaw is a better-constructed Saw film than the last three or four installments, sparking horror fans’ interest with new traps and a new storyline, yet still feeling familiar and lived in — not quite a sequel, yet not exactly a reboot. Jigsaw firmly exists as a standalone Saw film, paying homage with its gory traps, stretched out plot mechanics and trademark “I want to play a game” voiceovers.
It has been ten years since the last sign of the Jigsaw killer. For those of you that have forgotten, franchise spoilers are about to come knocking.
Alright, well The Final Chapter not so cleverly revealed that Dr. James Gordon (Cary Elwes) was a part of Jigsaw’s master plan the entire time. Well, not the entire time, but ever since he first cut off his own foot in the original Saw and was last seen crawling down the damp and dark corridors, looking for help.
Gordon was a giant absence in the series, with each new installment scratching at the itch in the back of our minds that said, maybe he’ll finally be revealed?
Amanda was first revealed as Jigsaw’s apprentice, then Detective Hoffman. The Final Chapter reveals that they too were being tested and that apparently Gordon (and some mysterious helpers) were free of the games for the time being.
The Final Chapter‘s biggest problem was that it came on the brink of the franchises worst draws, thus had to wrap up a rumored 4 films into one. So, the final ending to one of the most elaborate horror franchises was spotted a mile away, thus capping off the gore in a rather weak way.
Enter Jigsaw, a film that I will not be spoiling and instead praising. The film starts out with a trap and poses the question of who orchestrated it. Is John Kramer aka The Jigsaw Killer somehow alive after all of this time or perhaps there’s a new killer on the block? But why now, after all of these years?
Jigsaw answers said questions and it does so in a more satisfying way than The Final Chapter. It’s not quite as jaw-dropping as Saw I – III, but it ups the excitement when compared to IV, V and VI.
Jigsaw also ditches the soap-opera look and horrid acting for a film that’s technically a marvel to look at. Jigsaw is visually constructed better than the last 3-4 sequels without a doubt, consisting of well-cut sequences of torture and gore, not to mention acting that isn’t cringe-worthy.
I’m not going to suggest Jigsaw gets nominated for any Academy Awards, but The Spierig Brothers definitely know how to play in the Saw wheelhouse, bringing their own ideas for horror to the games in a way that’s inventive and exciting for the dormant franchise.
Writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg also pen a worthy follow-up script that’s both familiar and an homage. There’s no denying that naysayers are still going to dislike this franchise and even the possibility that franchise faithfuls are going to turn their back on the series because of Jigsaw‘s worn-in sensibilities and that’s fine, but perhaps they missed the point.
Jigsaw isn’t a straight-up reboot or a direct sequel, but instead a standalone film that pays homage to the series. It’s not solely focused on rebooting the franchise to start up the money truck over at Lionsgate, although I’m sure they’re hoping it catches on, but instead it gives us a new game, with new consequences and new outcomes. It does feel like a blend of a few endings from previous installments, but isn’t that the point when paying tribute?
The Spierigs and their team of writers have taken the best of the previous films and updated them with a fresh coat of paint (or pain). They make great use of the budget on inventive traps and kills that are surely going to make fans squirm in their seat, yet they tack on their own little twist ending that attempts to bring back that shock factor into the mix.
It’s not as effective as the original Saw or even its first few sequels, but it works a lot better than the last few.
I can see why Lionsgate didn’t simply try to make a sequel to the series, because most of the Saw‘s relied on setup for the eventual sequel. It’s one big trap — finish off the entire mystery of the series in a small runtime will probably end up with a messy script and scattered ideas, but make another sequel that bombs and fans will again be waiting for that final closure that never comes.
Jigsaw attempts to bring back old viewers and possibly interest newcomers. Perhaps it’ll spark some interest, but if not — the story still feels complete in its own right and I can respect that and admire that, even if I’m still wishing we would have gotten better closure from The Final Chapter.
Fans of the series should appreciate Lionsgate’s efforts to bring in fresh talent to stir up that same bloody pot, even if they don’t full-on relaunch the franchise. It’s a test that we can prove successful by supporting it.
Haters are going to pick apart the film’s logic and bite their thumb at the over-the-top gore. Jigsaw is a film that assumes it knows every single person’s moves and I’m aware that isn’t 100% possible, but that doesn’t mean the film can’t be entertaining.
I personally enjoyed walking down memory lane with the film and being thrown into the nerve-inducing scenarios that rely on gut instinct and actual teamwork to reveal the greater “lesson” being told. Saw as a franchise is definitely past its prime, but most studio tentpoles are, so why not explore something not immediately worried with continuing the blood line and instead wants to throw on that old pig mask and chain you to a pipe in an extremely well-lit, yet disgusting old basement with a convenient sliding door?
Game over? Naw, the game has just begun!