Many would agree that on a fundamental level, any film worth watching should be one of the following: a well-made film, or fun to watch – though preferably it should be both. Jigsaw (2017) is the sequel to Saw VII, aka Saw 3D, aka Saw: The Final Chapter (2010), and despite it being a continuation of a series even fans wanted to stay dead and buried, the film is both a significant improvement over the later entries of the series, and it’s such a laughably dumb movie that I honestly didn’t want the film to end.
As the eighth entry in the Saw franchise, Jigsaw follows the investigation of a series of murders that suggest the return of the infamous Jigsaw killer, despite the fact that the original Jigsaw, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), has been dead for ten years. When four new victims find themselves playing one of Jigsaw’s games of redemption, the chase is on to hunt down the lingering remains of the Jigsaw killer. If there’s one thing this film does right, it’s making Jigsaw’s motivation consistent with his actions. The character of Jigsaw has always been sold as a “morality killer”, someone whose fascination with life, death, and redemption has lead him to abducting the morally repugnant to test their will to live a good life through convoluted and torturous, but escapable, death traps. However, this motivation has been contradicted throughout the series, as among murderers, racists, thieves, and rapists, Jigsaw has also abducted and ‘tested’ drug addicts, self-harmers, long time smokers, and the occasional overzealous Good Samaritan. In this film however, our four victims, who I can only remember as bland (Laura Vandervoort), bland (Mandela Van Peebles), the crying blonde (Brittany Allen), and Meany McJerkface (Paul Braunstein), are not only all guilty of murder through selfishness, negligence, or malicious intent, but they all additionally reject any notion of guilt for the deaths they’re responsible for. As a result, the victims accurately fit in with the twisted philosophy we’ve been told Jigsaw holds, which makes the villain all the more compelling.
As is expected from the Saw formula, there’s two major plots running throughout this film: the police investigation plot, and the gory torture porn plot. Starting with the gore plot, the victims of this movie find themselves trapped in a fortified, booby-trapped barn, similar to the house from Saw II, as opposed to the formulaic series of deadly escape rooms common in nearly every other film. Interestingly enough, while Saw is famous for being a gore-ridden torture porn series, the violence and gore in Jigsaw is among the tamest of the films in the series thus far. For example, the first trap in the film involves the aforementioned victims to Jigsaw being chained to a wall made of spinning buzz saws, with their chains pulling them closer to the blades. Naturally, the only way to escape is to give ‘a blood sacrifice’ by cutting themselves on the buzz saws. While you’d expect this to result in lost fingers and arms, the survivors of this test only wind up with minor flesh wounds, which was pretty silly to witness. Even worse, when there is some legitimately gory results to a test, the effects used to bring the violence to life are pretty garbage. For example, there’s a corpse that’s discovered by the police later on in the film when it falls down from a compartment in the ceiling, and while it’s supposed to be a startling moment, the corpse looks too much like a sausage that got put through a hot dog slicer to be taken seriously. While the gore in this movie is fairly muted and poorly done by comparison to the rest of the series, the traps are at least fairly different and unique. I’ll admit, as hard as it is to top traps from previous installments of the series such as the reverse bear-trap, or my personal favorite, the shotgun carousel, you’re definitely being creative with a Saw film if someone can say, “this film had a giant, motorcycle-powered blender in it”.
Meanwhile, the police plot follows a tried tradition of horror films by making the police inept at their job of bringing down the bad guy, despite there being glaring, obvious clues to tell both the police and the audience who the bad guy is by the end of the first act. Like other, much less watchable films currently in theaters, this movie has some very obvious red herrings swimming around in its plot that only serve to frustrate its audience whenever the film tries to tell us “no guys, for real, this person’s the killer, we swear.” This movie can get especially silly at times during this police plot line, such as when the main forensic pathologist character of the film, Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore), pulls out a bullet casing from the victim of a gunshot wound, instead of the bullet itself – which is what should’ve been lodged in the victim’s body. Such inconsistencies and lapses in logic will keep you scratching your head and saying, “Hang on a second, that’s not how that works. How did that happen? What?”
In addition, Jigsaw has not one, but two plot twists in its story. The first plot twist is ridiculous and completely implausible to anyone with passing knowledge of the events of the first four entries of the Saw series, while the second one takes the first plot twist and says, “Oh wait, you believed that first twist? Well PSYCH! That wasn’t the real plot twist at all, you IDIOT!” I won’t tell you what each twist is specifically, because each of them are so dumb that I was left laughing in delight at the complete ridiculousness of the film, and I would be remiss not to keep the surprise for your own viewing pleasure.
While Jigsaw is far from the worst installment in the Saw movie franchise, it’s incompetently written just enough to be a fun time without wanting to die of boredom. This movie is by no means good, and while you probably shouldn’t watch this film unless you’re a fan of Saw, I find that the film can be enjoyed ironically from its sheer stupidity and ridiculousness alone, as long as you have a vague idea of the story of the series thus far.
George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English, along with a Certificate in Exile Studies.