"On October 27 he returns to take back Halloween," the trailer for Jigsaw ominously informs us. I think Michael Myers might have something to say about that... Regardless, after seven years Lionsgate finally came up with a viable plan to resurrect the Saw franchise, having already gone and squeezed every last drop they could out of John Kramer's corpse after he died in the third movie, and so here we are.
A man is chased across rooftops by police before activating a device that he says he has to do or people will die. Elsewhere, fice people wake up in a metal room with chains around their necks and buckets on their heads. They all players in one of John Kramer's games, and a recording from him tells them that they will have to confess their sins in order to survive. But John Kramer has been dead for over a decade, hasn't he? As the police investigate, the heavily mutilated corpses of the game's victims start turning up, sending the media into a frenzy. We also discover that there's now a secret underground world of obsessive Jigsaw fans who work to build replicas of his traps, that there's DNA evidence that suggests John Kramer is still alive, and a circle of suspects that's pretty much all the characters we meet in the film, cops and medical examiners included. Is John Kramer actually still alive somehow, or has someone new taken up the mantle of Jigsaw?
Remember how, in the review for Saw 3D, I commented on how the number of secret apprentices that John Kramer apparently had was getting a bit ridiculous? Well, now I've come to the conclusion that he must have been standing on street corners and handing out flyers. "Become part of Jigsaw's Secret Apprentice Program! Learn a craft! Get revenge on your enemies!" Because guess what - there's another previously unknown Jigsaw apprentice here, and from the look of things, he didn't have any contact with any of the other apprentices either. Frankly, I'm most annoyed that Dr Lawrence Gordon didn't return in this episode, but apparently, this was down to a pay dispute that Cary Elwes had with Lionsgate after the first movie. It was eventually settled, but Elwes agreed to only return for one movie, and that was Saw 3D. So instead of my fantasy movie that pits Dr Gordon against [Mystery New Apprentice], I'm instead just imagining that he's running the website for all the Jigsaw enthusiasts/devotees.
One thing that I've not covered in most of my reviews of the Saw movies is its use of time. The series likes to play with audience expectations a lot with this - the prime example would be the events of Saw III and Saw IV, where it's revealed at the end that the events of the two movies have been happening simultaneously, to better confuse the audience and make the twists and revelations more obtuse. Well, without giving too much away, Jigsaw plays with time and setting again to hide its biggest revelations - although to be completely honest there's only really one way all of the events in the film could have gone down if you actually think about it.
John Kramer's bizarre idea of justice rears its head again as well. Of the five people playing the 'game', one killed people in a hit-and-run and got away with it; one was a purse-snatcher who let their asthmatic victim die; one sold a kid a dodgy motorcycle which promptly crashed and killed its new owner; one killed their baby and framed someone else for it; and one put the wrong label on an x-ray. One of these things is not like the other... Holy crap, John Kramer, brain tumour or not, you need to get some perspective.
But let's be honest: most people came for the traps, and they're suitably over-the-top here. Heads get sliced in two; people get injected with what's probably hydrofluoric acid (again); someone gets lowered into a giant blender... The trap that's featured so prominently in the trailer, however - two people buried up to their necks in grain and having various sharp implements falling on them from above - is both a giant red herring and a Rube Goldbergian impossibility, because at that point it's so much up to random chance that it's more unbelievable that the victims don't get hit by any of the blades, spikes et al. It's setpiece deaths, rather than anything truly plot-related. The laser collar trap at the film's climax is an interesting new addition, and is also very next gen, not being made out of purely mechanical parts like the other Jigsaw traps.
So that's the Saw franchise. At this point, I'm pretty sure they've done everything they can with the series (but then again, we all thought that after Saw 3D), so unless we are going to get that Apprentice V Apprentice episode, I think we can now safely lay it - and John Kramer - to rest for good this time.