Jigsaw entertains, disappoints Saw fans

Ethan Singleton, Hook Editor

Don’t let the title fool you; this movie is nothing more than Saw 8, or VIII. An aimless continuation of a series that could have ended perfectly in at least three past movies.

That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed every one of these films, this one included.

The premise of the Saw series is that a cancer patient, nicknamed Jigsaw, becomes disgusted with how people do not appreciate their lives, and decides to put these people through tests, [or “games” if you really want to sound like a sociopath] that force them to mutilate themselves and/or kill others in order to survive.

Throughout the series, things get vividly disgusting, and morally grey, even by Jigsaw’s grotesque standards. The graphic brutality of the games make the terrifying plot even more potent, forcing viewers to ponder how much they value their own lives and how far they would go to preserve it.

The scariest question in these movies is whether Jigsaw may be even the slightest bit right in his beliefs about human nature: is suffering necessary to create meaningful life, and do people who do not appreciate life deserve it?

The biggest flaws in the series have been the gaping plot holes, and the unrealistically perfect execution of Jigsaw’s plans that border on omnipotence. While there’s nothing wrong with suspension of disbelief, the absurdity of the Saw movies is often annoying and distracts from their substance. These faults are present in Jigsaw more than any of the previous movies, except perhaps Saw 3D.  Jigsaw begins with a group of people waking up in a titanium room with buckets over their heads and chains connecting them to a wall of spinning razor blades. They are told that they must “shed some blood willingly” to avoid being sawed to death altogether.

And that’s it.  Literally just let it graze your finger and you’ve completed the test. The Jigsaw of the earlier films would never have let his sinners get off that easily.

While this is only the first in a series of games planned for his five victims, none of the others are very interesting either. All too weird and elaborate, they are not particularly scary. There is no time limit for completing these tests, and therefore no urgency.  There is no punishment for putting off having to gouge your eye out or whatever you’ll be asked to do next.

Instead of the filthy, claustrophobic urban settings of the previous movies, this one takes place in a barn with plenty of sunlight, dead space and miscellaneous objects lying around. The situation of a bunch of terrified people in one of Jigsaw’s games has become a familiar and heavily parodied movie staple. Unfortunately, because of the unthreatening setting and lack of imminent danger this movie fails to give the scenario the intensity it used to have.

Meanwhile, a police investigation plays out into a series of grisly, Jigsaw copycat murders that may lead them to the current game. This subplot holds up its end of the bargain well enough. It is interesting, complex, and genuinely surprising.

Besides Tobin Bell’s rehashing of his sagely menacing Jigsaw role, there are no stand-out performances. All the other characters are merely means to the end of carrying out yet another one of these movies.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig maintain the classic Saw feel with jumpy edits and dramatic panorama shots. The only difference is the increase in sunlight and the lack of neon green and blue. While it’s fine to not have every scene look like The Matrix, this lighting did not fit.

For a Saw movie, it is no spoiler to say that there is a plot twist at the end, a few actually. The plot twists in this movie were unexpected and while, not surprisingly, full of holes, they were still clever and entertaining. Also, unlike Saw 3D, they fit in with what the storyline builds towards. I could watch just the twist endings of these movies for hours, and these earn their  place.

Jigsaw is subpar both as a stand-alone movie and a Saw movie. If you enjoyed all the previous Saw movies, even the ones that weren’t very good, I cautiously recommend this one. To anyone else, I do not.