7 years after we last saw John Kramer AKA the Jigsaw Killer comes this new Saw film. Remember the Saw films? They were one of these depressing noughties inventions, like Skins or the Pussycat Dolls.
Jigsaw opens with 5 people waking up chained to an elaborate torture device. You know the sort of thing. You wake up with a bucket on your head, and the bucket is full of bees and squirrels and old socks. So you have to unlock the bucket, but the key is somewhere disgusting like down the side of your bed. So you have to get an Uber to your house and the driver keeps talking to you about football. And when you get home you find the dog made a mess on the carpet so first you have to clear that up, and also the Vicar’s coming round for tea. Except none of the traps in Jigsaw are that interesting. One of them is just a grain silo that slowly fills up with grain and pitchforks. What’s it supposed to do, bore them to death?
By this point the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) is basically a sadistic version of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, designing pointlessly elaborate contraptions for the relatively simple purpose of death. Nick Park has said that Wallace’s Rube Goldberg machines are based on the principle of using a “sledgehammer to crack a nut.” That seems like an apt description of this movie.
This “soft reboot” was an opportunity to hit reset; to go back to the stripped-down simplicity that made the original Saw picture so brilliant. I’d give my right foot to be back in that toilet. And fresh from directing the surprising and intimate Predestination, the Spierig Brothers might have made something equally nifty. But no. It’s just the same old combination of needlessly convoluted torture and equally convoluted (and torturous) police procedural. Except here, the two have nothing to do with each other. That’s exactly the kind of lazy cynicism we’ve come to expect from our executive producer, the appropriately named James Wan.
The only other difference is that Kramer is tamer this time around, in a movie that’s less nasty and more cartoony than before. There are no ideas even half as gory as Saw II‘s gouging out your own eye, although I was tempted a few times. Despite no longer delivering on the Mindless Depravity front, it’s also about as fun as a Harriet Harman joke book. Because where’s the fun in a franchise where literally every character is evil? They’re either being tortured because they’re evil, torturing someone else because they’re evil, or an evil cop about to double-cross someone (who is also evil).
This dull, rusty old Saw continues along the same tedious, nonsensical dirt path we’ve trodden every Halloween since time began, without a single new idea. Actually that’s not fair, there was one: the buckets on their heads. I’ll remember that when it’s time to watch the next one.