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What’s up everybody? I’m Joe Baress and this is “Five Minutes in the Film Room.”
The Saw franchise is back … Well, at least for one movie. As you may know, because you either know me or can see by my lack of an It review, horror movies are not really my cup of tea. I can handle the gore, and I love the psychological aspect of horror films. I just don’t like the horror.
James Wan is one of the biggest names in horror today, keeping the genre afloat with strong franchises such as The Conjuring and Insidious. Back in 2004, he got his start with the smash hit Saw, and the franchise ruled Halloween for years until its eventual seventh film or quote, unquote Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. So why do I like these films? I enjoy a good psychological thriller and almost half of these provide that. Saw is excellent, and has one of my favorite twists ever. And please let’s not forget that iconic score that beautifully builds throughout the film. The second one is also good, but as the series continued, the quality started to decline, as the focus moved toward the gore instead of the psychological aspect. But for some reason the sixth one found its footing.
Basically, this is a guilty pleasure for me, and has a bit of nostalgic value as my friends and I used to see it every Halloween in high school. Yeah, that’s how old this franchise is.
To those unfamiliar with the material, the franchise is based on a person who wants people to value their lives again. So he tries to save them by putting them into games or traps, which require them to make a sacrifice that involves some sort of pain or torture. Those who have the courage to go through with it, live. And some consider themselves saved.
But as the series progresses, his philosophy gets a little murky and his pupils definitely take the franchise all over the place. Sounds peachy, I know.
I’m interested to see how Jigsaw is ultimately received, because I just don’t think it fits the time anymore. But that’s not why you’re here. You want to know if it’s good … So let’s go to the tape.
Is Jigsaw, aka John Kramer still alive 10 years later? That’s the question the eighth film in the franchise asks. He died in the third film by the way. Need I remind you, this is the eighth film. There’s another game, another mystery and another slate of mediocre actors at best that you’ve never heard of or at most say to yourself, ‘I think I’ve seen this person in something before.’
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw is iconic with his voice and as this character, but you don’t get the performances of a Danny Glover, a Cary Elwes, a Donnie Wahlberg as the protagonist. And all the characters are new, so you have no attachment to them.
One thing this newest installment does well is it reels in the gore a little bit. It’s still there, obviously, but it’s not as over the top. And it tried to be intelligent again. I emphasize tried because the story is convoluted, but some elements work.
For those interested in the traps, they’re OK I suppose. One of them looks a bit cartoonish. For those interested in a solid twist or a good mystery, there’s really not one to be had here. I had pieces of it figured out early. And everything I didn’t pick out was too convoluted to piece together. For those who enter the franchise with this film, there’s nothing for you here. If this movie was released today without the clout of the franchise behind it, Jigsaw would be buried and forgotten.
I’m a fan of the franchise, so if they keep making them, I’ll go see them. But at best among the eight movies, this one is somewhere from the middle to the lower tier as far as quality. It has nothing new to offer, it doesn’t evolve. It’s the same thing, as if the franchise never stopped churning out movies. It’s what I expected, but I hoped they would try to set the bar a little higher.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Jigsaw is OK. I suggest fans of the franchise to go see it. You’ll probably enjoy it. But unfortunately it doesn’t add a new layer. Instead it’s not memorable and ultimately unnecessary, which is what I expected. But I guess I just hoped that returning to the franchise seven years later meant they had a good reason to besides a quick cash grab. And for those who weren’t fans of the franchise before or are looking to get into the series through this movie. Don’t bother.
It’s difficult to rank this because I think it accomplished what it meant to do, but I’ll just quote the late great Dennis Green, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, in saying, ‘They are who we thought they were. And we let ’em off the hook.’