Released: 26th October 2017
Directed By: Michael and Peter Spierig
Starring: Tobin Bell
Reviewed By: Van Connor
The most socially conscious killer in the business makes an unexpected return with Jigsaw, the would-be soft-reboot that actually plays more like the numerous TV series revivals of the past few years than it does its a new entity in its own right. That’s right, Saw has joined the ranks of The X-Files and Will & Grace in being brought back from the dead, and the results are sure to delight fans of the series proper, though doubtless as likely to keep any averse audiences firmly in line for literally anything else.
Set ten years after the death of iconic killer John Kramer (Saw III, if you’ve – understandably – lost track by now), Jigsaw sees five strangers awaken in chains and facing the sharp end of a circular saw, the impending bloodbath staring back at them only the first stage of a new game by the notorious mastermind. As our strangers attempt to navigate their way through Kramer’s latest creation – facing up to their own personal demons in the process, naturally – on the outside, a pair of coroners find themselves the prime suspects for this latest game, taking matters into their own hands in order to clear their names in time to save those trapped inside.
Bringing Predestination and Daybreakers helmers The Spierig Brothers into the fold, the newcomers prove just the sort of higher-brow blood needed after what even fans would call a series of rather samey – though, admittedly, entertaining – instalments. Despite questionable pedigree in its writing calibre (one of its two scribes penned the best-forgotten Good Luck Chuck before directing The Hungover Games – a parody so unfunny it didn’t even feature a Wayans), the old Saw-franchise sharpness is well and truly back. In fact, Jigsaw holds so firmly to just what made Saw the series it once was (interesting traps, characters as engaging as they were disposable, et al) that its adherence to formula does render one specific hallmark of the Saw vault of cinematic twists depressingly inert in 2017. And, believe me, you’ll very much know it when you encounter it.
Of our band of cinematic red-shirts this time around, Laura Vandervoort and Mandela Van Peebles make a solid impression amidst a small group of Jigsaw’s tormented victims, with Callum Keith Rennie bringing his usual fine snarling game to the law enforcement side of proceedings. It’s relative unknown Matt Passmore who makes the greatest impression, however, serving largely as our lead and also as something of a more affordable and effective alpha answer to Corey Stoll. Passmore classes up Jigsaw’s shocker moments rather nicely, and it’ll be intriguing to see him in further genre entries down the line.
Of the challenges in bringing Saw back to the screen though, it’s essential not to underestimate the rather sturdy work the Spierigs have crafted with Jigsaw. A stripped-down, more wildly moralistic tale than ever before (we’re really not far off Jigsaw targeting people who cut in in line at Starbucks at this rate), it’s as nasty and gruesome as the series ever was, revelling in blood-drenched inventiveness to the sick delight of anyone who’s been with this franchise for the better part of a decade and a half now. Those who’ve never warmed to it, unsurprisingly, are unlikely to start now, as its a new house of horrors built upon the same intriguing foundations, but in the hands of craftsmen like Peter and Michael Spierig, those foundations remain well and truly solid.