Warning: Spoilers ahead.
knew "Jigsaw" was the eighth film in the "Saw" franchise, of which I had only seen the first two. I was also aware of how the series was obsessed with its own continuity by not wasting any of its characters and tying all the films together with a deeply convoluted, impenetrable mythology. Since I'm not only a glutton for punishment, but also obsessed with deeply impenetrable continuity, I recently watched the first seven "Saw" movies over a 36-hour period. This was astoundingly unnecessary.
Here's what I learned: The first three "Saw" films focus on John Kramer, the Jigsaw Killer, who kidnaps flawed individuals not truly appreciating their lives. Jigsaw then sets these people up in increasingly complicated, Rube Goldberg-ian traps to either kill the victim or give them a new lease on life.
Kramer is dead by the end of the third film, leaving his assistants to continue his work. See, Kramer was dying from an inoperable brain tumor and was playing the long game when it came to his self-righteous crusade against the lazy, the criminal and the genuinely crappy people of his city. Even during the seventh movie, the victims are still listening to recordings of Kramer telling them he wants to play a game.
"Jigsaw" takes place a decade after Kramer's death and follows a new group of victims as they move through a deadly barn filled with traps, irony and the gravel-stained voice of Tobin Bell as the long-dead Jigsaw. Since the first seven movies all have a giant twist at the end, it's safe to assume "Jigsaw" will have one and that it will be connected to how the hell Kramer is still killing people long after his bloody death. He's not Jason Voorhees, so unless the franchise has decided to get really weird, we're not dealing with a zombie Jigsaw.
ctually, a zombie Jigsaw might have been the perfect way to re-launch this franchise after spending seven years gathering dust. With directors Michael and Peter Spierig (responsible for the stylish and undervalued vampire flick "Daybreakers") onboard, I expected a "Saw" movie that took the franchise in unexpected and exciting new directions. For better or worse, what we got instead was just another "Saw" movie.
"Jigsaw" is fun and fast-paced, while also toning down the gore the franchise is so well known for. After watching eight "Saw" movies across a day and a half, I had seen enough spilling intestines and severed body parts to last me a lifetime. It was a relief to not have to test my gag reflex on "Jigsaw," but the film could have also taken more chances with the newly re-animated series. The traps are ingenious and creepy, but it does feel like we've seen it all before. Or maybe I just have.
This won't win over anyone who doesn't like the torture and gore inherent in the series, but for the fanatics, this is a nice way to ease back into the franchise. You can still enjoy the film without having seen any of the previous movies in the series—which makes me feel like I not only wasted 14 hours of my life sitting through the entire "Saw" oeuvre, but that I also need to rethink my life choices starting right now. Or maybe next month.
Dir. The Spierig Brothers
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema