‘Jigsaw’ Review: Another Dose of Classic ‘Saw’ Gore and Games

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movie Reviews Horror
Movie Reviews Horror Movies
3.0
of 5
Review Essentials
  • Satisfying gore
  • New traps to make you squirm
  • Continuing the soapy, labyrinthine plotting
  • Conventional and unsurprising
  • Pushes credibility to the limit

What is ‘Jigsaw’?

A mysterious madman rounds up a group of victims to play sadistic games of life and death. Police soon find evidence that links the crimes to Jigsaw, the infamous killer who died 10 years earlier.

Another Twist in the Saga

To date, there have been seven Saw films. Jigsaw is the eighth instalment in what is one of the most successful horror movie franchises ever. The film series’ convoluted plot, which began in 2004, saw main antagonist and original Jigsaw killer, John Kramer, killed off in Saw III. But the franchise’s eagerness to play with the timeline has seen events jump back and forth, allowing its creators the freedom to keep moving forward with the franchise, without it necessarily becoming stale.

I say ‘necessarily’ because to some, the Saw films may seem repetitive. It is true to say that they stick to a tried-and-tested formula. But to fans of the franchise, each new film brings another turn in the twisted tale, which sees Jigsaw dealing out his own skewed brand of justice. The story sometimes rewinds to throw a curveball, add an apprentice or retcon a detail that audiences couldn’t have seen coming. In this way, the story is constantly developing, and the mythology deepening — as its soap opera credentials are ramped up.

What the Spierigs Bring

Jigsaw_Pigwoman
The pig head makes an appearance.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig pick up the reins of the eighth part, which takes place 10 years after the death of John Kramer. What follows is a messed-up murder mystery, with police and a pathology duo investigating a new set of deaths that have all the hallmarks of the Jigsaw killings. Perplexed as to how it could be happening again when all the evidence points towards Kramer, it’s a race against time as they follow the clues to try and save a new batch of victims. But with no one above suspicion, who can they trust?

Placed under the attentive gaze of the Spierigs, this latest instalment of the franchise is in safe hands. They’re the twin-brother directorial team behind assured vampire flick Daybreakers and acclaimed time-travel thriller Predestination. They’re also helming the forthcoming Helen Mirren spook-fest Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built. The Spierigs are credible filmmakers, and the potential for what they could do for the Saw franchise has always been great.

But rather than pulling the rug out from under us and delivering something bold, new and inventive, they stick closely to the familiar blueprint and dispense a solid if unsurprising and unoriginal addition to the fold. However, that doesn’t mean Jigsaw isn’t enentertaining.

Indeed, there’s plenty to tantalise Saw fans here. Want blood and gore? You got it. Want elaborate traps? You got it. Want a plot that keeps you guessing as to just what the heck is going on? It’s here. And there’s also a sense of fun. Jigsaw gives you all the things that keeps the Saw movies raking in the cash at the box office.

Hit and Miss Traps

Jigsaw-trap
Bucket-headed victims await their fate.

There are a couple of heart-stopping traps among those that have less of an impact, either because they don’t live up to what we’ve seen in the past, they’re simply over-and-done with too quickly, or they’re just plain silly. The first — the one glimpsed in the trailer with the circular saws embedded in the walls and bucket-headed victims attached to retracting chains via neck braces — is probably the best. It’s certainly the one that will have you wincing most. Every one of the five victims’ ordeals will have you averting your eyes from the screen.

It’s matched only by another scene in the third room involving a network of wires and an abductee’s leg. Oh, but let’s not forget that final death scene. Don’t worry about spoilers — we’re not going to get into details here.

Grossed Out and Loving It

Jigsaw-puzzle
The mortuary slab is the scene of some pretty vivid injury detail.

What’s interesting about the Saw films is that there’s a logic that it’s possible to identify with in Jigsaw’s game. You find yourself almost conspiring with him as he forces his abductees to confess their sins – some of which can be pretty heinous. Dare we say there’s even an element of the audience feeling like they deserve what they get? Well, yes — and that’s partly where our enjoyment comes from, of course.

But while we see a fair amount of gore during the torture scenes, some of the grisliest images are witnessed on the pathology table. In Jigsaw, we’re subjected to some vivid close-ups of the victims’ wounds. A decapitation is particularly sickening but it’s almost surpassed by the opening up of a thorax during an autopsy. Ew. But we want to be grossed out, right?

Silly But Satisfying Plot

Jigsaw-tape
There are tapes to play, of course.

A satisfyingly intricate plot doesn’t disappoint exactly, since it delivers what we’re expecting – another piece of the Jigsaw puzzle. But it’s definitely silly and not always that plausible. Whether you care or not depends largely on how much love you have for the franchise and how much you’re willing to forgive it for plot holes, or its increasing demands on your suspension of belief.

Is ‘Jigsaw’ Any Good?

Jigsaw-trap
Laser cutters? That's going to smart.

Jigsaw is the latest piece in the Saw puzzle. It adds yet more detail to the bigger picture, which grows unsequentially, like the puzzle that the antagonist is named after.

Bringing fans of the film series new, elaborate torture devices alongside twists and turns to whet the appetite, and gruesome scenes to make you flinch, Jigsaw is a worthwhile if frustratingly conventional addition. And with still more questions to answer and new avenues to explore, this convoluted film-puzzle clearly isn’t resolved yet.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
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