2017, Bad Behavior, Bad Situations, Creative Killings, Gross Out, Horror Movie Franchises, Horror Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Murder!, Plot Twists, Sadistic Games, Same Old Thing, Sequels, Serial Killers, Torture, Unnecessary Sequels, VIOLENCE! 0
Review by L.L. Soares
Well, it’s another year without a good new horror movie to celebrate at Halloween!
But I hear you saying—there IS a new horror movie out this weekend! The return of JIGSAW (2017). There have been some years where there were no new horror movies at all for Halloween, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.
But it’s just not much to cheer about.
The original SAW movies (2004 – 2010) used to come out every Halloween weekend like clockwork. But I was never a big fan of the series. Though these movies were a big part of what critics called “torture porn” (a phrase I still can’t stand), I much preferred the similarly maligned HOSTEL films. The SAW films just seemed to be the same thing over and over again, and they kind of blurred together after a while. And the whole thing about the villainous John Kramer (Tobin Bell)—aka the serial killer Jigsaw—setting up these elaborate torture/death scenes in order to punish people for their sins, and make them appreciate life, just seemed not just preachy—but fake preachy—to me. I didn’t really care about Jigsaw’s unconvincing motivations. Some of the “games” were kind of cool, and the series has always had at least one great gore effect per movie. But it was never enough to get excited about.
I saw each SAW movie as it came out, not because I was eager to see what the franchise cooked up next, but because I had to review them. And each year, with each new sequel, it just got more and more tedious. And the overall storyline got more and more convoluted, as Jigsaw seemed on the verge of death, or supposedly even died, and sought the right person to pass the torch on to. There had to be about five different people who could have carried on Jigsaw’s legacy.
I guess the new movie is kind of a reboot and a sequel, since it’s main intent is to revive the series after a seven-year silence, but I really wish this franchise had stayed quiet. I was relieved not to have to see any more lame sequels for a few years. And how about something else? How about a new series that was actually good that we could look forward to each Halloween? But no. Hollywood has no intention of actually giving us something worth getting excited about. Instead, they just rehash old crap that once made money, hoping it will make money again.
Sure, horror movies almost always make money the first weekend they’re out, but at this point, haven’t movies like GET OUT and IT shown people that you can make quality horror films that will make even more money than the tired old retreads. All you have to do is try to deliver a decent product for a change. And if you were to release one of these above-average horror films the weekend of Halloween—you could carry that all the way to the bank!
So JIGSAW is a disappointment on several levels. First, it’s boring because it’s business as usual, with nothing fresh or different to show us. Secondly, it just adds more unnecessary convolution to an already overstuffed storyline. As you’d expect, there are twists and turns here, and the ending has a big “surprise”—except it’s not all that thrilling a surprise. It’s just another lame detour on the highway that is SAW.
Like the other movies in the series, this one jumps back and forth between a group of unlucky people who are forced to play Jigsaw’s latest game, and the police who are investigating the case, trying to figure out who the killer is. The games where people are tortured and slowly whittled down in numbers are the better plot, while the investigations are always kind of tedious, and the jumping back and forth is just annoying.
When the new movie opens, John Kramer, the original Jigsaw, has supposedly been dead ten years. Except the murders he started are happening again. Five people are kidnapped and wake up in an abandoned building with buckets on their heads and chains around their necks. Buzzsaws pop out of the walls in front of them, buzzing away, and those chains start getting reeled in, pulling them closer and closer. Jigsaw talks over an intercom, telling them what they need to do if they want to make it past this round of the game alive. Same as always.
Even the wimpy Jigsaw puppet on a tricycle makes an appearance. It’s always a highlight, because these movies are so meh.
Then JIGSAW jumps to an investigation by a detective named Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) whose kind of a sexist asshole, who’s checking out the bodies to clues, and interrogating people, including the coroner, Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) and his assistant, Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). For a while, I couldn’t tell if Anderson was just a really stiff actress, making deadpan jokes about “bucketheads,” or if she was supposed to talk in a kind of monotone. As the movie went on, I realized she was playing the character the way the director wanted her to, and I started liking her more, and I found the secrets that get revealed about her to be interesting. But it wasn’t enough.
The victims back in Jigsaw’s lair get exposed to giant swirling grinding machines; silos that fill up with grain that threaten to bury them alive; syringes full of corrosive acid that melt you from the inside; chains that threaten to hang them; and sinister shotguns. While some of the “torture” scenes are suspenseful and not terrible, there’s not much to really make this outing worth your time and money. And then we have to go back to the less-interesting investigation scenes.
I will say there’s one very cool gore scene involving laser beams that stands out from the rest—like I mentioned earlier, every one of these movies has at least one big, well-done gore scene—but otherwise, the violence in this one is kind of a snooze.
And the big twist at the end felt like a real cheat to me.
This one was directed by brothers Michael and Peter Spierirg, who also gave us the vampire flick DAYBREAKERS (2009), which I thought was so-so, and the time travel flick PREDESTINATION (2014), which I liked a lot. They also made the upcoming WINCHESTER: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT (2018), starring Helen Mirren, that looks like it might be pretty good. JIGSAW was written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, who also wrote PIRANHA 3D (2010) and SORORITY ROW (2009).
I’m sure if this one does well, they’ll revive the series again and we’ll get these lame-ass movies every October again. Man, do I hope it’s a flop. Because it was nice not having to go to SAW movies for six years.
But instead of coming up with something better—a horror series to make us look forward to Halloween even more—we get this recycled gruel that cynically takes our money, knowing that a lot of people will go to any horror movie that comes out at this time of year, whether its good or not, and that profits will be made.
But when we’ve have some real quality horror movies come out this year, the second-hand shit becomes less and less palatable.
Are the SAW movies the worst thing I’ve ever seen. No, not even close. But we deserve better than JIGSAW.
And I doubt we’ll get anything better next Halloween.
I give JIGSAW, one and a half knives.
©Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives JIGSAW ~ one and a half knives.