It was around Halloween seven years ago when I did a little happy dance in my head as I walked out of a movie theater.
I had just seen Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, the seventh and, as advertised, supposedly final film in the Saw franchise. Oh, deep down in my cinema-going heart, I didn’t really believe it would be the last one. I had been tricked before. (Fuck you, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street!) But, you know, it did say The Final Chapter in the title, and this was back in the pre-Trump days, when I was a little more optimistic and had a bit more spring in my step.
I had hopes that I would never again hear Tobin Bell, as Jigsaw, droning on about “playing a game” and murdering people with elaborate schemes that would take something like $7 billion per death. (A lot of industrial labor and major planning, with perhaps a live production crew, would be required to pull off Jigsaw’s Rube Goldberg-style stunts.) After two or three years went by, I thought, hey, maybe greed won’t win the day—and perhaps Jigsaw’s cinematic life had actually come to an end.
Nah. The bastard lives on in Jigsaw, a film that pulls Tobin Bell out of mothballs and finds a way for his permanently scowling, droning party-pooper to start up the elaborate killings again. Hey, man … Lionsgate needs a hit, and nobody over there is concerned about quality or making a lick of sense. This film is living proof of that.
Things start in that oh-so-familiar Saw way, with a bunch of people trapped in a room and chained to contraptions that threaten to disembowel them. They are all bad people who must confess their crimes, or face the wrath of Jigsaw—and a rather stellar makeup department. Yes, this movie is idiotic, but the gore-masters do some fine yucky stuff. There’s a half-sawed-off head moment that was quite good. I hope the PA or intern who did the work on that one got an extra Snickers for the effort.
Yeah, Jigsaw died in one of the past movies. I don’t remember which one, and you couldn’t pay me enough to go back and watch them again to figure it out. I just know he died somewhere, and lived on in flashbacks. The writers have come up with yet another way to return the crotchety psycho codger to the big screen, because somebody at Lionsgate needs one of those saltwater swimming pools and a new bike.
I’d give you a plot synopsis, but, hey, what’s the point, right? It’d just be me running off a bunch of characters played by actors and actresses you don’t really know. I guess what I could do is describe a few of the killing contraptions that take people out in this thing. There’s a spinning blade thingamabob rigged to a motorcycle engine that makes little to no sense. There’s also a wire-rigging sniggle-dee-doo that chops a dude’s leg off, and somebody gets injected in the neck with acid. In a nod to the Harrison Ford thriller Witness, a couple almost dies by getting buried alive in a grain silo. (Oh man, I just referenced Harrison Ford’s Witness in a Saw review. That has to be against film criticism law. I’m sure there’s a fine pending.)
The movie is directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, whose best previous effort would be the mind-trippingly good Predestination. This makes me sad they wound up with this gig. Like, really sad. They get to work with Hellen Mirren on the cool-looking Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built next, so maybe redemption is on the way.
Now eight movies in, I’ve yet to see a Saw movie that I liked. Jigsaw is more of the same, and more of the lame. The most unique thing in this movie is Tobin Bell’s stylish soul patch. (I really did admire it … it’s a daring facial-hair gesture.) At least Cary Elwes doesn’t show up for this one. Although, now that I think about it, a scene with him comically overacting as he saws off yet another limb would’ve been far better than anything in this movie.
Jigsaw is playing at theaters across the valley.