Jigsaw

Jigsaw

2017, R, 91 min. Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig. Starring Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Clé Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 3, 2017

When it comes to gore-heavy franchises, Saw’s original helmer James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell initiated a blood-spattered, extreme horror cinema renaissance that outdid the collected torments of Torquemada, the Marquis de Sade, and William “Bad Aim” Burroughs combined. Love them or loathe them, the Saw series, dubbed “torture porn” by many, has proved its staying power, outlasting rival franchises Final Destination, Paranormal Activity, Eli Roth’s Hostels, and maybe even Insidious. Saw’s thematic and character continuity is what most fans cite as the reason the series holds up so well, but I don’t go to the Saturday night horror show seeking sneaky connections and endless backstories. I like my shockers to be anything but predictable, and Saw is the very definition of predictability and, ultimately, tedium. That horse corpse has been flogged and flayed enough, already.

And yet here comes the series’ twisted moral crusader Jigsaw (Bell) and his gruesomely inventive games one more time (this despite the fact that alter ego John Kramer was DOA way back in 2006’s Saw III). Surprisingly, directing sibs the Spierig brothers (the trippy Undead, Daybreakers) tone down the arterial spurts and skull cracking until the final reel, resulting in a marginally better entry into the franchise. Costas Mandylor’s deranged master of forensics, Hoffman, who took up the crimson slack when the cancer-riddled John Kramer finally shuffled off this mortal coil, is entirely absent here. Instead, detectives Halloran (Rennie) and Hunt (Bennett) team up with a pair of forensic pathologists (Passmore and Anderson) after a corpse with a chunk of flesh in the shape of – what else? – a puzzle piece turns up in the morgue. With Jigsaw’s previous acolyte gone, the detectives begin to suspect that their M.E. allies might be more involved in the increasing body count than simple autopsies. Where’s Jack Klugman’s Quincy, M.E. when you really need him?

As for Jigsaw’s victims this time around, they’re five vacant characters trapped in a buzzsaw-surrounded room. The clock is ticking, as it always is in this franchise, and so we get deaths by farm implements inside of a grain silo, booby-trapped shotguns, and laser-beam dog collars, among others.

Jigsaw, the eighth film, and one that leaves the door for at least one more sequel wide open, is a cut (ha!) above the rest of the series only because the Spierig brothers rein things in. Also of note is cinematographer Ben Nott’s rejection of the previous films’ desaturated palette of vomitous urine yellow and gamy greenish grime in favor of unbleached daylight and overall better camerawork. Which I suppose is a step up from where Wan began, but truthfully Jigsaw is basically a fan-only affair. When it comes to full-bore gore, I’m impatiently awaiting season 3 of Starz standout splatstick slaughterhouse Ash vs. Evil Dead. Now that’s entertainment!

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Michael Spierig Films
Winchester
Helen Mirren fights off ghosts with construction tools.

Marc Savlov, Feb. 9, 2018

Daybreakers
The vampire community goes into crisis when humans have been hunted to near-extinction; Ethan Hawke plays a doctor working to create a blood substitute.

Kimberley Jones, Jan. 8, 2010

More by Marc Savlov
The Twentieth Century
Suitably bonkers Canadian surrealist comedy rewrites history

Nov. 27, 2020

Jiu Jitsu
No jiu jitsu, and not enough Nic Cage in this Predator rip-off

Nov. 20, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Jigsaw, Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig, Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Clé Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle