Jigsaw

jigsaw-2017-rev Jigsaw  (2017)    Lionsgate/Horror    RT: 92 minutes    Rated R (sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language)    Director: Michael and Peter Spierig    Screenplay: Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger    Music: Charlie Clouser    Cinematography: Ben Nott    Release date: October 27, 2017 (US)    Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Cle Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black, Tobin Bell.

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 Just in time for Halloween, the Saw franchise has been successfully resurrected with Jigsaw. This news should have gorehounds and closet psychos dancing in the aisles. If you follow the series then you know it’s the eighth installment. It comes just seven years after purported “Final Chapter”, a phrase we all know is pure bunk. In horror, there is no final anything. Remember Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and how it was followed the next year by A New Beginning? As long as a series keeps making money, the producers will find a way to keep it alive which explains why many horror sequels feel like they’re on life support.

 jigsaw rev Even though he supposedly died ten years earlier, Jigsaw suggests that John Kramer aka The Jigsaw Killer may still be alive. It’s a plausible scenario; how many times have Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers been brought back? There is a new series of gruesome killings and it looks like the work of our old friend Jigsaw. In Jigsaw, there are two storylines: (1) a group of people being held captive in an old rundown barn rigged with deadly booby traps and (2) the police investigation of the mangled bodies of the victims. The police, led by Detective Halloran (Rennie, Memento), first become aware of the situation when they corner a criminal on a building rooftop holding a remote control triggering device. He shouts something about five lives being in his hands before the police shoot him and the device. It activates the first trap back at the barn. The victims, each one with a metal collar around his/her neck, are pulled by a chain towards a wall of buzzsaws. A recorded voice tells them they must make a blood sacrifice in order to escape. All but one makes it to the next “test”.

 As per usual, Jigsaw selects victims with terrible secrets that have gone unpunished. His intention is to make these people confess their sins or else die a horrible death at their own hands. With Jigsaw, it’s always a matter of choice. If a victim makes the right choice, he or she might live at the expense of great pain, bloodshed and/or disfigurement. If they make the wrong choice, they die in some elaborate fashion.

 While the latest victims try to survive Jigsaw’s tests, the police try to discover their whereabouts. All the evidence- i.e. DNA, M.O. and signature (a jigsaw puzzle piece carved from each victim’s flesh)- points to Kramer. Could it really be him? It’s baffling because he’s been dead for ten years. Or has he? There are other viable suspects like forensic pathologist Logan (Passmore, The Glades), an Iraq War vet whose wife was killed a couple of years earlier. It could also be his assistant Eleanor (Anderson) who’s revealed to be a Jigsaw Killer fangirl who builds replicas of his most famous traps.

 A few of my friends expressed shock that I like the Saw movies. What can I say? I really do like them. I like that they were a rite of Halloween for several years. I like the elaborate traps, copious gore and twisty plots. What I like about Jigsaw is that they don’t try to update, improve or reboot it. It understands the Saw mythology and fits in very nicely with the other movies. One thing I really admire about this series is its sense of continuity. Many horror sequels seem to forget what happened in the movies that came before them (e.g. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood). The Jigsaw narrative may be convoluted but at least the makers appear to have watched the other movies before proceeding with their chapter. I’m not saying that Jigsaw should win any writing awards but it’s better written than most horror movies.

 Now for the question for of you are asking; is Jigsaw as gory and sadistic as the others? I would say yes. There’s a reason they call it torture porn. Since I don’t want to be labeled a plot spoiler, I will warn you now that I’m about to describe some of the kill scenes. If you don’t want to know, skip the rest of this paragraph. For those still reading, here we go with the highlights. Somebody gets injected with a syringe containing corrosive acid. One character has his leg severed. Somebody is sliced up and mutilated by a spiral-shaped blade trap. A shotgun backfires in somebody’s face. Another character’s head is sliced apart by laser cutters. The traps aren’t quite as elaborate as others but they work.

 Here’s the deal, if you like the Saw movies, chances are you’ll like Jigsaw too. It delivers more of the same. It has a decent storyline with a couple of nifty twists. It’s directed by the Spierig Brothers who also did the underrated 2009 vampire flick Daybreakers. The acting is about what you’d expect. The actors give the performances the movie calls for. The gore effects are quite good. Like the ones before it, Jigsaw is NOT for the squeamish. That, of course, goes without saying. The target audience knows who they are and will be there with bells on opening weekend. It’s a lot of fun and I hope it marks a return to the tradition of releasing a new entry every Halloween. I, for one, welcome it. 

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