November 19, 2017

Movie Review: Jigsaw (2017)

Truth be told, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Saw series. I don’t hate it, but I feel it deserves the mix of love and hate it gets from its audience at large. I am happy about the blood in horror renaissance it sort of brought in the wake of the wake of the PG-13 copycats that flooded the market in the self-aware post-Scream horror landscape. The problem was that the more it went on, it became more about messing with the audience and developing a labyrinthian reality than about about giving us a compelling story and characters. I was kind of glad they ended it after the seventh, but I guess it was just a matter of time before they brought it back. Enter Jigsaw.

I am thankful that they decided not to reboot the franchise and just make another one in the series. Frankly, I think the series is still too fresh in our memories to make a reboot truly viable. At the same time, this route does not really open the door to a new generation of fans. Much like the increasingly higher numbered sequels, the formula was pretty well ingrained and did not offer that much of an evolution. Basically, if you were not already a fan, or at least interested, this is not going to win you over.

This eighth go around was directed by the Spierig Brothers, who first made a splash in 2003 with their indie horror outing, Undead. Since then they have plied their skills on Daybreakers and Predestination. This is their first chance at a big franchise title, and while it has some of their personality, it ultimately constrained by formula and does not stretch any boundaries. The writing duties fell to the team of Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, they previously worked on such films as Piranha 3D and Sorority Row, so they are no stranger to remakes and the Hollywood machine.

As I said, the saw sequels all follow roughly the same template, with the main difference, that I see, is the deeper in you get, the less character you get. When this one starts, there is no Gordon, Tapp, Amanda, Hoffman, Strahm, Kerry, Matthews, or even Rigg or Jeff. We are given a whole new set of characters in the rolls that we expect them to be. There are the players of the group game that plays out of the course of the runtime, and there are those investigating the apparent return of John Kramer.

Discussing much of the plot is a delicate topic. Jigsaw is driven by what happens, so too much in depth discussion of the plot could prove detrimental to enjoyment of said film. I will say that while I found the storytelling early on to be a bit sloppy and uneven, it eventually righted itself allowing the pieces to fall into place the closer to the reveal that it got.

I sat there, watching this play out and I knew I was being messed with. It was more than how the characters were being messed with, they were mere pawns of the writer being moved around the chessboard. It was me and thee rest of the audience who were the real targets. Everything was a manipulation to get a rise out of us. Early in the series it was a combination of on screen character and audience reaction. It has almost completely shifted to the viewer.

This does not mean I didn’t enjoy it, I did, I just wish it was better. The games played are fun, the twists along the way are decent, and the final reveal is pretty clever into how it all fits. Still, while I enjoyed it, I do not see it as being strong enough to kickstart the franchise and start a new run. However, there were tidbits that gave me an idea of how it could continue, or how it should have continued that might have been able to breath more life into the series.

Jigsaw is an entertaining, somewhat clever entry in the series. It does not match the best of the run, but it was clever enough to entertain for 90-minutes. My biggest wish is that the characters were the least bit interesting. You have one guy that is a caricature and the rest are just blank. The characters offered nothing to hold onto, leaving one free to focus on how one was being messed with. It entertains, but is ultimately forgettable.

Mildly Recommended.

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