The original 'Saw' was released in 2004. It jump-started the career of its director, James Wan, who managed to make that movie for a million bucks. It raked in over $50 million and Wan eventually went on to give horror fans The Conjuring and Insidious. It also inspired a slew of gore-heavy, ultra-violent imitators, as well as six sequels of its own. In fact from 2004 to 2010, every Halloween marked the release of a new 'Saw' movie and fans kept coming back making it one of the most profitable horror franchises ever. And now, seven years after the original, we get a sort-of sequel, kind-of reinvention of this successful, but tired franchise.
Set ten years after John Kramer, AKA the Jigsaw killer, has died- which technically happened way back in the third movie, this film features a band of new characters desperately trying to survive a series of sadistic traps designed to prove the victim's will to live. Jigsaw's motive has always been to punish those he believes are unworthy of life for one reason or another and puts their appreciation of their lives to the test in a brutal and twisted game of survival. But as detectives investigate a series of new murders, they begin to wonder if it's a copycat killer or if the real Jigsaw is still alive?
Some people can not stand these movies, or this genre in general, and I will tell you this film certainly won't change your mind. As a fan of the original, which is more of a psychological thriller and mystery than it is the bloody torture flick its largely remembered as, I have always been fascinated with practical horror movie makeup effects. And so while I've never found these films to be scary, the first two sequels were still entertaining and offered some sort of mystery to solve while also delivering on the horrific gross-out moments.
But as the sequels kept coming, it appeared that in favor of the clever twists and 'what-would-you-do' scenarios from the first part of the franchise, the later sequels would focus solely on the traps and gore. Similar to the horror heavies of the 1980's, like the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, there's only so much you can do to stretch out these series. For me, Saw is a franchise that could have stayed buried a few sequels ago. But I was curious to see why a reinvention of the franchise was necessary. Jigsaw is a slightly frustrating experience for moviegoers who try to solve the mystery as clues are revealed because so much of it is misdirection or predictably absurd that by the time the twists arrive, it's not as impactful or shocking as you'd want it to be. While this entry does boast a few creatively disturbing set pieces, it does dial back on the brutality in comparison to some of the sequels and focuses more time to the investigation. So while this entry does appear to be more polished and less rushed than a few of its predecessors, it's ultimately not different enough or exciting enough to justify its existence.
It's sort of 'meh' experience coming from a fan of the first few films. If you haven't liked any of the 'Saw' movies, you definitely won't like this one. If you do like them, there's enough here to maybe warrant a matinee price this close to Halloween. But in a year of some great horror movies like 'It,' 'Get Out', and 'Split,' it's hard to recommend this movie, which I certainly didn't hate but also thought was a sort-of missed opportunity. I give 'Jigsaw' a C.