HOLLYWOOD—I have a love and hate relationship with the “Saw” franchise. When the first flick arrived in 2004, it was unlike anything really seen in the horror genre. “Saw” gave birth to what many now call torture porn. Yes, it’s not exactly what you think, but it’s an element of excessive violence and uncomfortable violence for the audience to watch. The flick was directed by new horror icon James Wan, the guy responsible for “Insidious,” “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2.”
The movie ended with an exceptional twist with our puzzle master John Kramer (Tobin Bell) being inside that room with Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell), the entire time. Since then, we have seen at least 6 sequels, each delivering clever surprises and twists with each ending. The last entry in the franchise was in 2010 with “Saw 3D,” as the franchise started to lose plenty of steam.
Well, John Kramer or at least the audience is made to believe is back in “Jigsaw” that sees someone mirroring intricate traps similar to the notorious serial killer. This time around the narrative follows Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), as he investigates the murders of several people who have been trapped inside a barn courtesy of John Kramer.
During his investigation, Halloran initiates the help of pathologists Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor Bonneville (Hannah Emily Anderson). That is an important element of the narrative that has been consistent throughout the franchise: suspect everyone at all times. While some might appear innocent, that innocence could be revealed to be nothing more than a ruse for a bigger game at play.
I will acknowledge that the characters involved are not game changers where you fall in love with them; most are just faces utilized to further what intricate kill will transpire next. Let me be clear, the element of torture porn is front and center here; however, it seems a bit tamer than in previous installments. That might be a direct result of audiences feeling fatigued with seeing the same gross-out element time and time again. Death can be cruel, but sometimes a viewer is more intrigued with what they don’t see versus what they actually see. One notable character that stands out is that of Anna, portrayed by “Smallville” alum Laura Vandervoot, who attempts to outwit her captor, but constantly finds herself one step behind.
I will not give “Jigsaw” extra points on its narrative because it’s quite similar to previous films, however, its climax is one that will even stun the smartest people you know. There are plenty of movies that have iconic twists that if you re-watch the film a second time you can easily pinpoint where the twist comes into play. With “Jigsaw” it might take not only watching this movie a second time, but watching all the flicks in the franchise to put all the pieces to the puzzle together. Trust me there are plenty of puzzle pieces and not all the work to pinpoint the twist at play.
As a viewer, it is wise to indulge in all the madness and enjoy it for its entertainment value. “Jigsaw” honestly could be the rebirth of the franchise, I’d just argue tame down the violence a bit and attempt to focus more on developing characters the audience will actually care about versus how they will meet their maker in gory fashion.