I have seen all the Saw films, but I remember almost nothing from them except that they keep finding new and sometimes creative ways to bring the Jigsaw killer back from the dead without actually bringing him back from the dead (that’s no exception here; the Jigsaw killer had his throat slashed with a power saw in Saw III. He ain’t coming back from that). I like the simplicity of the movies; they’re like slasher films as though designed by Rube Goldberg. They’re infectious, each game with its own little mini-puzzles. They’re elaborately staged escape rooms, only if you fail to escape, you die in a spectacularly brutal manner.
They’re disposable but fun, if you’re into simple moral codes, pointless bloodshed, and violent deaths (I am!). There’s something very satisfying about the films, too. Unfortunately, the series has suffered from deteriorating returns, both creatively and at the box office, and with 2010’s Saw 3D, the franchise finally gave its Halloween slot up to the Paranormal Activity series (which has also since faded and disappeared).
The series returns after a seven-year hiatus with Jigsaw. Unfortunately for those hoping for a creative reboot and some new energy, Jigsaw is mostly more of the same. It’s kind of like hooking up with an ex: It’s fun and exciting for a few minutes, but then you remember why you broke up in the first place. The relationship had run its course.
There’s not much to say about the film. It’s another elaborate game. There’s another set of D-list actors, plus C-list actor Matt Passmore and the son of a B-lister, Mandela Van Peebles. They’re all trying to escape from the game set in a remote farmhouse before they die. They fail. Meanwhile, a cop, his partner, a medical examiner and his assistant are all trying to figure out where the game is located and who is behind it before it runs its course.
It’s filmed like a late-night Skinemax movie; the acting is deliciously bad-to-mediocre (Callum Keith Rennie is particularly adept at that brand of acting); and there are a few twists, some that you may see coming and others that you won’t. I will say this: The way they brought Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw killer back was clever (and I didn’t figure it out until the reveal), they keep us guessing on the identity of the actual killer until the end, and there are few decent kills. The film is also short enough (92 minutes) that it doesn’t completely test our patience.
That said, the novelty is mostly gone. They’ve poked it and prodded it and looked at it from different angles, but there’s not much life left in the series. But, as horror movies go, it’s passable, and it’s the only new game in town on Halloween weekend, so I suspect it’ll earn its money back and probably disappear for another seven years with a darker, grittier reboot.