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Jigsaw: A Bland, Unimaginative, and Shoddily Written Mess That Offers Nothing New

Updated on November 4, 2017
Rami Nawfal profile image

Rami has a BA in psychology from the American University of Beirut and an MS in addiction counseling from Grand Canyon University.

Prior to my venture into quality cinema, my passion for films was actually catalyzed by horror. And by horror I don’t mean iconic gems such as The Exorcist, Psycho, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I actually speak of a perplexing former obsession with two franchises: “Saw” and “Final Destination”. A comprehensive knowledge of the former’s lore and characters still finds itself engraved into my gray matter’s confines even years following the culmination of my Saw addiction, so it only makes me human to be curious as to what the franchise had to offer seven years following the subpar and supposed “final chapter” into the saga.

As per usual we start off with an ill-fated ensemble of morally dubious individuals who are kidnapped and forced to participate in a gruesome torture-based game for their survival. As the body count ascends, Detectives Halloran (Callum Rennie) and Hunt (Cle Bennett) seek the assistance of forensic medical examiners Eleanor (Hannah Anderson) and Logan (Matt Passmore). Pretty soon these characters become suspicious of each other as audiences roll their eyes and prepare to guess which one of them could be a possible secret apprentice to the serial killer Jigsaw, who has been dead since the 3rd entry into the franchise.

I have to say I am disappointed. With a seven-year hiatus and over a hundred scripts to choose from, the least we can expect as level-headed filmgoers is an array of new ideas. Jigsaw is a serial killer but proclaims himself an ethicist as he subjects people who he deems unknowing of life’s true worth to twisted torture games. The inaugural Saw film along with its first sequel did manage to delve into the premise’s notions of moral hypocrisy. But the problem with the rest of the franchise, with perhaps the exception of the sixth entry, is that it never nurtured any of its multiple abstractions beyond a superficial level. Regardless of lore expansion with apprentices coming and going out of the picture, “Jigsaw” goes down the same path in a vigorously unpleasant manner. The idea that survivors of twisted torture games could be stricken with Stockholm Syndrome and subsequently live by the killer’s shortsighted, hypocritical ideology is actually a goldmine, but it’s frustratingly reduced to exposition for the sake of a twist in a pathetic attempt to compensate for shoddy storytelling. This film hints at Jigsaw’s nationwide influence, another interesting idea ridden with opportunity, gone to waste. The only thing to show for it is one of the characters making identical replicas of his traps and a hasty reference to some twisted website for people fascinated with the nature of his exploits.

Seeing as how the “Saw” franchise is anything but cinematic gold, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that this entry would follow the established formula; cutting back and forth between police investigations and the victims of a game, followed by a twist somewhere in the third act, which admittedly caught me off guard. I never had much of an issue with the formula during the old days of my “Saw” addiction as the entertainment value was high and is still somewhat resonant to this day but at a lower frequency. So the issue with this film from an entertainment standpoint isn’t entirely related to my current loftier standards for cinema, it’s just that “Jigsaw” is simply uninteresting. The traps are comparatively tame and lacking in creativity, the game isn’t all that engrossing, and the characters are entirely devoid of personality or intrigue; their emptiness further accentuated by the generally hollow performances of the unknown cast. Moreover, the lack of a horrifying atmosphere was apparent. The games of the franchise are noted for taking place in grimy dilapidated areas, a fitting setting for troupes of unlucky characters to be put into gory struggles for their survival. Though “Jigsaw” is filmed more proficiently than its predecessors, the entire look is neutered, sterile, clean, and artificial. As a consequence, the film is unable to provide a more visceral experience as it fails to transport the viewers into the frightened perspective of the characters.

“Jigsaw” has nothing new to bring to the table, which is a crying shame given that seven whole years have elapsed as opposed to one, which means that the amount of time for innovation and going the distance is practically obscene. It could’ve been as formulaic as it is and still manage to at least hold my attention had it not been for the aforementioned deficiencies in mere entertainment value. But what frustrates me more than anything is this film’s intent to be nothing more than another installment into the franchise. I’d say “Jigsaw” is as subpar a film, if not worse, than the universally reviled “Saw 7”; I wouldn’t even recommend it to diehard loyalists of the franchise.

My score: 3/10

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