“Jigsaw” begins with a critical scene that ties together the plot of the eighth and latest installment in the “Saw” series. This scene begins a puzzling plot that viewers must piece together throughout the film, and even still, the ending remains unclear, which may likely lead to a drive home full of debate and unanswered questions.
The film shows five victims trapped in an escape room. In typical “Saw” format, the room acts as a heavily booby-trapped elimination style game, where someone is eliminated in each room as they pay for the deaths that each character is responsible for. The victims must confess to their sins or pay the consequences, typically leading to a gruesome death. However, as seen in the previous film, John “Jigsaw” Kramer has been dead for several years, and the plot centers around scientists attempting to figure out who is orchestrating this deadly game.
“Jigsaw” brings viewers through two simultaneous stories. One revolves around “The Game,” and the viewers see the victims making life or death decisions..
Meanwhile, Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), forensic pathologist Logan (Matt Passmore) and Jigsaw-obsessed assistant Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) piece together the clues to find the victims and discover if Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is still alive.
If you have never seen any previous “Saw” movies, here’s a warning: The film is gruesome and twisted, and the death scenes are extremely intense. The movie isn’t so much scary as it is disgusting. The film also shows a very detailed autopsy where victims appear as though they went through a blender (and then were blended again).
What was even more shocking is that when Logan and Eleanor uncover these victims, they are far too calm. Not even a single gasp or gag. It seems unrealistic that our heroes would react to a face that looks like it went through a meat grinder with total indifference.
“Jigsaw” is directed by newcomers to the franchise, Michael and Peter Spierig. Both Spierigs excelled at keeping the audience at the edge of their seats, especially with a twist ending that will make the viewer question their beliefs about the rest of the 92-minute run time. The two directors also use intimate camera angles that make viewers feel the pain of Jigsaw’s victims.
This technique is particularly shown in a scene where a victim in the game, Ryan (Paul Braunstein) has his leg trapped in wires that are tightening around his leg, nearly removing it. The scene exemplifies the shirt grabbing, hair pulling, painful scenes that “Saw” fans have come to love.
Coming into the film with little knowledge of the previous “Saw” movies, the film has a “Final Destination” vibe in that both franchises base their appeal on the creative ways that they brutally murder their characters. Unfortunately, this gimmick seems a little played out at this point. Someone dies, then they move on to the next room, someone else dies, and so on and so forth.
The Spierig brothers have created a strongly stylistic film, and “Jigsaw” has much more personal flair than other modern mainstream horror films. The directors made nice aesthetic choices, and the quick-cut, jarring editing that is typical in some films in this genre is refreshingly absent. When the characters are screaming, there’s a reason for it.
There are two types of viewers going into “Jigsaw”: the hardcore franchise fans and the casual newcomer to the series. For the newcomers, the film’s plot was exciting to piece together, and the Spierig brothers made the characters’ decisions both painful and real. For the hardcore franchise fans, the movie seems to have taken the same game-style elements from the other “Saw” films, yet they surprisingly cut down on the gore. “Jigsaw” is more of a gut-punch, puzzle-solving horror than a jump scare, spooky film like “The Exorcist.” Nevertheless, it is sure to provide chilling thrills for all horror film fans, newcomers and experts alike.
Tyler Movsessian can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @t_movsessian.