Film Review: Jigsaw

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With horror back in mainstream cinemas it was only to be expected that studios would go back through their back catalog and try to work out which horror franchises could be re-booted. There was little surprise when it was announced that Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th were all touted as films that were ripe for the re-boot treatment. One that was a bit of a shock though was when they announced that Saw would be re-visited with Jigsaw… surely that well was well and truly dry… or was it?

After watching Jigsaw though it seems like that well has sprung back to life with some of the freshest water in the horror pool for quite a while. With legendary Aussie brothers The Spierig Brothers (Predestination, Daybreakers) at the helm of a script written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg (Piranha 3D, Sorority Row) the Saw franchise comes back to a life with an incredibly story that leaves the audience guessing right up to the moments of the film.

The film’s plot sees a string of bodies start turning up which leaves Detective O’Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie – Memento, Californication) and Detective Keith Hunt (Cle Bennett – Treed Murray, Urban Legend) baffled. The murders appear to be the work of the infamous serial killer John Kramer aka Jigsaw (Tobin Bell – Mississippi Burning, The Firm) but the only problem there is he died ten years ago.

As the bodies begin to mount the Detectives find themselves working with a pathologist from an Army background Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore – The Glades, Satisfaction) who is methodical and brilliant at his job. While he is convinced that Jigsaw is somehow still alive and once again playing ‘the game’ suspicion also falls on Logan’s assistant – Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson – Shoot The Messenger, What Keeps You Alive) who is such a Kramer groupie that she has re-created many of his most famous torture devices in her ‘gallery.’

What works so well with Jigsaw and once again breathes life into the Saw franchise is the sheer brilliance of the screenplay. Somehow Goldfinger and Stolberg manage to deliver a script, that you realise is actually pretty intricate once all the pieces of the puzzle fall together. Now I’m not going to spoil the big twist for everybody out there, but these guys manage to do with the ‘stories’ is something that would normally have an audience scratching their head but here once you’ve worked out exactly what they have managed to achieve you’ll be congratulating them on a job well done. So how they’ve managed to shake off the formula that dogged so many of the later Saw films and almost made this a horror film that is on par with the intense storylines of a film like Se7en.

The other thing that makes Jigsaw different from some of the other Saw movies is the inclusion of characters like Logan and Eleanor. While some of the films did become just sequences of people being tortured to death Jigsaw takes a different look at the events. While there are the tension filled scenes of various characters playing the game and meeting grisly ends the inclusion of Logan and Eleanor brings an almost CSI feel to the film and the fact that the writers manage to tie all that in with the story of the Detectives working on the case it ends up making Jigsaw a pretty well-rounded horror-thriller.

Character-wise there are some surprises. While both Halloran and Hunt are walking clichés, Halloran seemingly based on Billy Leroy from Baggage Battles, other characters, including some you wouldn’t expect, are well-rounded. Both Logan and Eleanor have back stories and are interesting, Eleanor to the point that you almost wish that she could have her own spin-off movie. The biggest surprise though is the main three characters in ‘the game’ have also been giving characterisation. Normally these characters would just be meat puppets for the torture porn element of the film but here we find Anna (Laura Vandervoort – Ted, Smallville), Ryan (Paul Braunstein – The Thing, The Tuxedo) and Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles – Roots, We The Party) all given characterisation – although I should put out that the Ryan’s characterisation just makes you want to see him die a very painful and slow death.

That characterisation also allows for some actors to use this film as a way to announce themselves. While Callum Keith Rennie’s performance does seem a little bit too clichéd television don’t let that put you off because others come to the fore. Matt Passmore shows what he is capable of with a good performance in the role of Logan, something that every Aussie has known that he is capable off since he first came to our attention in Blue Heelers. He is also well supported by Hannah Emily Anderson and it will be worth seeing whether both of them are now catapulted into other films off their performances here. It is also good to see Tobin Bell back as Jigsaw and once again he brings one of big screen’s most notorious serial killer back to a life in a relaxed but chilling performance.

While many people out there may have rolled their eyes when they heard that another Saw movie was being made – give Jigsaw a chance. Thanks to some creative screenwriting from Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg we see the best Saw franchise film since the original as they take torture porn and turn it into a genuine horror-thriller that keeps you guessing until its amazing climax.

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