Jigsaw, the first of the franchise in seven years, doesn’t hold much in the way of surprises, but goes somewhat back to the well of the original thriller’s premise. The first Saw film was a superb thriller in the vein of Se7en; A procedural chiller with enough scares for horror movie buffs, but not heavy on the gore like the later films in the franchise would embrace. The law of diminishing returns is in full effect once you watch the 3rd or 4th sequels, with brutal deaths supplanting much of the mystery central to the first couple film’s plots. The creators behind this newest episode realised this, and have somewhat returned the franchise to its roots, all while keeping the gore intact. It’s not the best of the franchise, but it’s far from the worst.
The film opens with… Yep. You guessed it. A locked room mystery. Six victims awaken with buckets on their heads and have to survive a series of deadlier and more brutal traps as “Jigsaw” John Kramer’s voice taunts them. As the bodies begin piling up Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Hunt (Cle Bennett) team with Medical Examiners Logan (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) to follow the trail to the killer, but didn’t this killer die long ago?
Returning somewhat to form this 8th installment features much more police work than some of the sequels, even if these scenes are the most comically melodramatic. The mystery has some decent twists and turns, but the resolution is obvious about halfway in. However, the ending features one of the visually coolest traps in the series, even if it’s somewhat unsatisfying.
Under Michael and Peter Spierig’ direction, and the screenplay by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, the traps this time out are bigger and more gruesome than ever; intricate and unyielding as they just keep going every time you feel safety returning. They are over-the-top even for a series known for being over-the-top. They range from pretty damned cool (Ooh, lasers!) to overly dramatic (The motorcycle spinny machine thing) to downright silly (the previously mentioned buckets).
Most of this movie is Saw by-the-numbers, but this installment takes the film somewhere I never thought this franchise would go; outside. Instead of the grey/green color palette we’re used to this film is vibrant, showing us a whole world of color. If nothing else Jigsaw looks nicer than the others, which is good because while only 90 minutes long it feels like an eternity, so at least it’s pretty.
The Blu-ray has some great bonus features, including the fantastic I Speak for the Dead: the Legacy of Jigsaw 7-part documentary that goes behind the scenes of the franchise, The Choice is Yours: Exploring the Props featurette, and audio commentary.
While not the best, but nowhere near the worst of the series, Jigsaw gives exactly what is expected; brutality, gore, and drama wrapped in a central mystery, and a creepy doll riding a bicycle.
Jigsaw is out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray combo pack, and DVD on January 23rd.