Directed By: The Spierig Brothers
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Starring: Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Matt Passmore, Laura Vandervoort
Seven years after the Saw franchise seemingly ended with its seventh entry - dubbed at the time as The Final Chapter, but now just referred to as Saw 3D - the successful series is finally back for another go-round with Jigsaw, an eighth installment designed from the ground up as a way to revitalize Saw in a much-changed horror landscape. Though some familiar names return to take part behind the scenes in this film, like series composer Charlie Clouser and editor Kevin Greutert, who also directed both Saw VI and Saw 3D, the Saw franchise is, essentially, under new creative management with Jigsaw thanks to a script from Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger (Piranha 3D) and the direction of The Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers).
Rather than pick up directly from where Saw 3D left off, Jigsaw forges its own path, setting up a new mystery set ten years after the events of Saw III, which featured the death of the series' main character, John "Jigsaw" Kramer. Bodies have begun turning up throughout the city fitting the late serial killer's MO, baffling police, whose theories of a copycat are put into question when fresh DNA evidence links the victims directly to the late Kramer. While they work to solve the case, and as the news runs with the idea that Kramer may actually still be alive, five people find themselves waking up in a secluded barn as part of a game designed to force them to face the sins of their past.
Now, before I start to get any further into this, I have to acknowledge that I have a soft spot for the Saw franchise. With no expectations or knowledge about Saw or Saw II, I saw the two films back to back for the first time back in 2006, their twists alone enough to get me excited to see Saw III, which was coming out several months later. After that, I saw every Saw film at a midnight showing with friends, each new installment being greeted with legitimate excitement. The franchise has always had a reputation for its gore and violence, which is regrettable considering the early films don't indulge too much in it, but that's not what we (or I) ever looked forward to with the series. Unlike many other long-running horror series, Saw has an incredibly tight continuity, with minor characters from one film turning up in another down the line for cameos or even elevated roles and plot threads and mysteries weaving their way through the entire series. Each new film tended to illuminate past films, the series constantly recontextualizing its own legacy in a way that was, quite simply, fun to see play out year to year.
That said, that doesn't mean that I think that Saw as a franchise is a horror masterpiece, but few, if any, iconic franchises as a whole, whether it's Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street, are. Without a doubt, Saw's best entries are its first three films, and each sequel after that had to deal with the consequences of the fact that the series' main character had died at the end of Saw III. Sometimes it worked, like Saw IV and VI, and others times it didn't, like the relatively boring Saw V or the truly disappointing Saw 3D. It's a series of highs and lows, like any franchise, but I enjoyed its original run for what it was, each film serving as a seasonal piece of a bigger puzzle, even if I can acknowledge that it's not high art.
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