Friday, October 27, 2017

Jigsaw (2017)

Directors: The Spierig Brothers
Notable Cast: Callum Keith Rennie, Cle Bennett, Matt Passmore, Hannah Emily Anderson, Mandela Van Peebles, Laura Vandervoort, Brittany Allen, Paul Braunstein, Joshiah Black, Tobin Bell

Saw was one of the first franchises that I felt like was connected to me. I was a freshman in college when the first one came out and I’ve seen every one in theaters, even going as far as defending it in many horror social groups as one of the truly iconic franchises of horror. Even then, the seventh Saw film – under whatever title you want to call it – ended the series on a low note. It was cartoonish and problematic. It, along with decreasing box office revenues, essentially killed the franchise. That is until rebooting everything became even more trendy than before and nostalgia started selling tickets even more. Thus, the return of ‘If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw’ with the 8th installment, Jigsaw. Let’s be honest though, this film has potential. The Spierig brothers in the director’s chair, time to not rush the film into production, and a new more cinematic look to the film all gave it a renewed sense of being a true ‘reboot’ without being a remake. Yet, as the credits rolled and the usual Saw music played after it revealed the usual spins and twists of plot, it was easy to feel underwhelmed. Jigsaw does indeed do what it wanted to by rebooting the franchise and still giving fans the pieces of the franchise they wanted, but it’s too safe. It adheres to its formula like it’s a religious reckoning, afraid to deviate too far and possibly alienate the inherent fanbase. In this effort, as a reboot it feels too much like a disconnected sequel and as a sequel it ignores the mythology too much to truly appease the super fans. Jigsaw is a fun Saw movie and hits all of those key moments and delivers on those goods, but is it so much to want more from it? Or has the franchise, even 7 years beyond the last entry, just too comfortable doing the same?

Those who dismiss KFC are thrown in the dungeon!
Interestingly enough, Jigsaw does expand a bit on what the seventh film failed at incorporating by taking the Saw trap mythology outside into the larger world. The film starts off with an un-Saw-like sequence of a high-speed police chase with a frantic criminal claiming that a new game has started and that a specific detective is needed on the case. It’s at this point that perhaps expectations go skyrocketing that Jigsaw will actually add something new and unique to the franchise while maintaining the same mortality-gone-horror-rogue heart. The film has a remarkably higher quality of look to it as the Spierig Brothers make it feel sleeker and more cinematic to expand on the usual dingy enclosed settings by further exploring how a trap would work by using the layerings of police investigation as Jigsaw dangles his victims in front of them. Visually, the film works like a charm too as it balances the usual tension of the traps and group survivor dynamics with sharp precision to keep the audience hooked and guessing as to where the twists and turns will arrive. The film is still gimmicky and silly, but that’s always been part of the Saw horror fun. Where else does it seem like the usual when two people trapped chest deep in grain have sharp instruments rain down on them with the sharp ends always pointed down? If it’s silly, eye-rolling kill sequences, it must be Saw. Right?

After that opening sequence and the general visual quality of the film, Jigsaw goes right back to the usual formula in its writing. There are two intertwining plot lines with the main farm trap and the investigation, there is the now usual appearance by Tobin Bell as Jigsaw, and there are plenty of plot twists for viewers to analyze later on home video. The big question that the film presents is a) who is the new Jigsaw and b) is there even a new Jigsaw or was Jigsaw even dead to begin with? It’s an interesting spin on the usual questions that the franchise asks, but Jigsaw has some issues with really running with it as it caters to the usual tropes of the series. It tries very hard to throw red herrings at the audience which includes characters like a morgue assistant with a fetish for Jigsaw devices and its efforts to not deviate from the tried and true formula undermine many of the more interesting elements it could have run around with. It’s almost so safe with its twists that they come off as predictable and for a series known for getting its audience to look one way before hitting them from the other, it seems simply like par for the course instead of a worthy reason for a new entry.

The future of Saw...LASERS!
Jigsaw remains an entertaining addition to the Saw universe, but for a film that should be re-inventing the series for a new generation this entry feels like one more in the ongoing series. It has all of things one would expect in the form of silly plot conveniences, gimmicky traps, and wickedly fast paced plot twists, but it just feels a bit more of too much of the same too often. Fans will like it well enough, but I hope that if it does kick start a new era for the series that the next ones will be a bit more daring. Enjoy Jigsaw for what it is because there’s not much else beyond that.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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