Pathologist Matt Passmore and Detective Callum Keith Rennie discover someone claiming to be John ‘Jigsaw’ Kramer is leaving a trail of bodies. Is Kramer (Tobin Bell) somehow still alive? Or is there a disciple/copycat out there? Meanwhile, a bunch of strangers wake up as unwitting participant in usual ‘Jigsaw’ puzzle shenanigans.
Weren’t we done with this shit? Didn’t they promise last time would be the “Final Chapter”? Oh, see that was called “Saw” and this one’s “Jigsaw”, so it’s totally different. Nope, it’s the same old shit, better than some, worse than others. Oh well, I guess “Friday the 13th” and the “Elm Street” films laid the precedent for B.S. marketing. Directed by Australia’s hack-y Spierig Brothers (whose “Predestination” was quite overrated but quite good), this 2017 film is deathly dull. It’s barely even a horror film, playing mostly like a police procedural/serial killer film with a Rube Goldberg fetish. I don’t think the previous films were scary either, they were all about torture, but there’s zero attempt made here to be scary. Add an unhelpful dose of phoniness and you’ve got a recipe for a nice 90-minute nap.
The Spierig Brothers really are wasted here, as the franchise by now is a well-oiled, homogenised thing they can’t really bring anything unique to. They bring some attractive lighting, but I’d attribute that more to cinematographer Ben Nott (Who worked with the filmmakers on “Daybreakers” and “Predestination”). They also give us dopey traps that feel more like a violent upgrade from “Home Alone” than the “Saw” franchise. They’re violent, but it’s very paint cans and wires kinda malicious blond-haired kid stuff. The opening scene in particular is so stupid and phony that I figured it’d turn out to be a movie-within-a-movie deal. Nope, someone thought it was a genuinely effective set piece. The ‘bucket head’ trap is even dopier, looking more like a slightly kinky college hazing ritual. I did like nasty corpse with the front of his head ripped off. That was gross without being so sick it’s off-putting, at least for me. Meanwhile, I’ve grown especially tired of the title character by now and actor Tobin Bell even sounds bored by now. At least Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger developed a campy sense of humour at some point, albeit eventually driving it into the ground a bit. Sure, having a dispassionate voice suits Jigsaw, but I know a slumming actor when I hear one.
Acting has always been one of this franchise’s weak points and this one is no different, with leads Matt Passmore and Callum Keith Rennie being particularly bland and uninteresting. Passmore is like a boring-arse Simon Baker to Rennie’s cut-rate Lance Henriksen. No one comes out of this looking good, but Hannah Emily Anderson (as a Jigsaw fangirl) deserves special mention for joining series embarrassments Danny Glover and Betsy Russell in the ‘Holy crap, what a terrible performance. Who let this shit go to print?’ stakes. The other issue that has plagued this franchise and rears its ugly head again here is the lack of remotely likeable or relatable characters. I’m aware that the whole thing involves twisted revenge/morality themes, but having a central conceit involving dark secrets/sins to confess makes it difficult to latch on to anyone. If it’s difficult to latch on to anyone, it’s therefore quite difficult to care. Scripted by Peter Goldfinger (“Sorority Row”, “Piranha 3D”) & Josh Stolberg (“Good Luck Chuck”, “Sorority Row”, “Piranha 3D”), we’re also treated yet again to the boring two-pronged plot structure of people trying to survive traps whilst the world’s dumbest detectives slow crawl their way to getting a clue.
As far as I’m concerned, this series was creatively bankrupt after the second (and only good) film. This one’s boring, cheesy, poorly acted and definitely somewhere at the back-end of a frankly not very good franchise.