“Jigsaw” eighth installment in years-dead “Saw” franchise

Alex Davidson

Staff Writer

“Jigsaw” is the eighth movie in the “Saw” franchise. The seventh film, “Saw 3D,” came out in 2010, and fan reception of the film was terrible, thereby sealing the fate of a series already on the chopping block after the lackluster box office gross of “Saw VI.”

So, the question everybody has about “Jigsaw:” is it a good “Saw” movie?

First, it’s important to come to terms with one thing: this is not a good movie. It’s a “Saw,” and those are always trashy, grungy, B-movie affairs. The acting is bad, the gore is over-the-top, and the plot is ridiculous at best—and an afterthought at worst.

However, that’s not what’s important.

“Saw” movies have never been about artistically-sound filmmaking; they’ve never been about innovation, and they’ve never been about slicing through to the director’s hidden talent. They’re just a series of fun, popcorn gore fests, made specifically for people who want to watch a fun, popcorn gore fest.

In making “Jigsaw,” the directors, the Spierig brothers, aimed to rejuvenate the corpse that was the “Saw” franchise. Rather than focus on the increasingly-convoluted plot put forth in the previous sequels, and attempt to emulate the direction and cinematography of the first (as all the others in the series had, to mixed results), they decided to make this one their own.

In doing so, they did away with many of the things that had found their way into the sequels, such as the sped-up camera spinning and weird sound effects right before somebody dies. There are a few things that eagle-eyed fans of the series might notice are missing, but nobody should be too disappointed.

The plot is pretty much the same as the others. A group of people are kidnapped and put into ridiculous torture games that they have to find their way out of, while incompetent police try to figure out what’s going on. There are a few twists to it, which will definitely have audiences up-to-date on the series somewhat surprised, but overall, it’s mostly similar to the others, and that’s a good thing.

Trying to completely reinvent the wheel when there’s already a tried-and-true formula is a risk that nobody wants to take. Trying something completely different, and falling well under the bar of audience expectations, would have been the final knife in the throat of a dying franchise. Instead, they chose to use the old, proven formula, and it works, creating a similar feel to the original movies, while also bringing some new things to the table in terms of cinematography and directing.

The acting, surprisingly for a “Saw,” wasn’t terrible—it certainly wasn’t good, mind you, but it was better than any of the others.

The five people in Jigsaw’s latest game know how to act terrified, the most important part of any “Saw” movie. As it goes on, and the motives behind this game become clear and the investigators also get a chance to put their skills on display.

While everyone in the movie could have been better, they certainly played their parts better than the actors in some of the others.

The most important part of any “Saw,” though, is the traps. From the simplicity of the iconic bathroom, to the ridiculous complexity of the shotgun carousel, the traps are what draw most moviegoers to see “Saw.”

Again, this is a place where things could have gone very bad, and ended the series in one jaw-rip. Luckily, the traps in this one are some of the more interesting from the series. Some are simple, some are complex, but every time somebody dies in one, it feels earned. The gore is no longer hot-pink paint as in the last one, and it’s also not overused either. There are some scenes where it’s a bit over-the-top, but considering how ridiculous it got in the latter sequels, “Jigsaw” actually tones it down a lot.

One nice thing the film did was use a lot of practical effects.

Since it’s 2017, computers are overused in a lot of productions. It may have been tempting for the directors to throw in computer-generated imagery all over the place, but instead they went back to basics, going for practical effects rather than bad graphics. The only place where they used CGI was in a specific trap where there really wasn’t any other way to do it. The CGI is also only on-screen for a second, so it’s not noticeable unless audience members are specifically keeping an eye out for it.

While this “Saw” installment doesn’t reinvent the reverse bear trap, it does bring some interesting deaths to the table, and the gore is much better than in the last one and not overused.

Its plot is relatively paint-by-the-numbers, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining than the others, and since it didn’t get trapped in the maze of razor-wire that is the plot of the previous series of films, it’s surprisingly digestible.

It certainly won’t win any new fans over, but it will occupy those followers of Jigsaw who have been there from the beginning. It’s a classic “Saw” movie, made seven years after the series was supposed to have ended, and to be honest, I’m up for more sequels.