The Saw franchise is an interesting case study. What initially started as a smart psychological thriller spawned into one of the most successful horror titles of all time, producing eight sequels and revamping the “torture porn” genre as we know it. The last film, Saw 3D, was seven years ago and was marketed as the last one of the series (which was a relief considering how terrible the film was). Unfortunately, Lionsgate lied and has attempted to rekindle interest in the series with Jigsaw, a sequel/reboot of the franchise. However, unlike previous entries, Jigsaw feels oddly restrained and safe. Despite having an R-rating, the blood and gore were limited, and the franchise’s infamous games were unoriginal.
Jigsaw takes place ten years after the infamous Jigsaw killer, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) passed away from cancer (which took place at the end of Saw III). The world seems to be free from Kramer’s sadistic games until five people wake up in a room with buckets on their heads and chains attached to chainsaws. On a speaker, they hear a mysterious voice that tells them that they must repent of their sins and the lost lives of innocent people. From there, the game has begun.
When bodies keep turning up on the streets, the police are at their wit’s end. A crusty detective named Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), a forensic pathologist, Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore), and his assistant Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) are trying to piece together the evidence to determine where these victims are coming from. The blood, skin particles, and the familiar jigsaw signature on the victims’ face seem to point to the original Jigsaw, but secrets start to emerge from the bloody surface.
The Spierig Brothers are usually excellent directors (check out the very underrated Predestination), but their disinterest in this material just seeps through the screen. The past Saw installments were full of grime and peeling walls—something straight out of a neighborhood from Hell. The farmhouse that this new game took place in feels like a glorified escape room. Everything is too clean, and the machines seem to be created by Jigsaw’s eager intern rather than by the infamous killer himself. In fact, the torture scenes feel like an inconvenience to the directors, and that they just want to get them over with rather than capitalize on the torture that the series has been doing since the beginning. Instead, the film spends more time with the police department and their drama over whether Kramer is alive despite having an autopsy and being buried a decade before. That turmoil leads to a twist that not only is utterly predictable but also has the audience wondering what they got out of watching this film in the first place.
Jigsaw isn’t a horrible film, per se. It just barely feels a part of the Saw universe. After having over a decade of creative traps and vile, claustrophobic settings, this latest addition lacks the heart and zest to stand out from most of the sequels.