dir. The Spierig Brothers
reviewed by Dakota Drobnicki
How you responded to the news that an eighth Saw film would finally happen, after seven years of dormancy, will likely reflect your feelings on the film itself if you go see it. People who hated the series when it was fresh need not apply, especially if they’re the annoying snarky type. Those who were more ambivalent towards it, who were surprised to see it come back, will likely have their feelings about the series affirmed in one direction by watching this one.
Of course I’ve always been a fan. Back in the day, Saw 3D was the only one in the series that I didn’t like, although I would warm to it with time. The creativity that went into the traps John Kramer would employ, the interesting police procedural plots that would happen around them, the absurd twists that would come up, I loved the whole ride. This was practically made for us harder fans who missed Saw after its last installment in 2010.
Thankfully it isn’t a full-on reboot, and even better, it seems to have already taken in a decent box office standing. For people here in town, you aren’t gonna have much other choice for a Halloween spectacle at the local theater, considering their baffling—and frankly conspicuous—decision to skip Boo 2! A Madea Halloween last weekend.
A group of strangers, brought together by their misdeeds in the eyes of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), wake up in a barn to a series of gruesome and potentially fatal traps he has laid out for them. They must rely on their wits and each other to endure the painful situations they’re forced to deal with, all while an investigation is underway to figure out what’s going on. Since John Kramer has been dead for ten years at this point, a copycat must be afoot, and that’s what the police procedural half of the film is devoted to discovering.
I stewed over how to write this review for a while because I would like to keep this written as objectively as possible. While I might be an unabashed fan of the franchise, those who aren’t are likely not gonna come out of this new Saw film with the same vigor I did. On the surface, it’s got everything these movies had before—you got your traps, your gore, your police procedural stuff, a gang of twists and a lot of monkeying around with the timeline.
Actually, up until the biggest twist came through and put the movie in an entirely different perspective, I was ready to label it my least favorite of the series. The stylish editing flourishes that dominated the previous films, like fast-motion and flashy scene transitions, are actually nowhere to be found here. This made it feel a bit less like a Saw film to me, although I’m sure plenty that found those flourishes annoying will appreciate the lack of them here.
The characters thrown into Jigsaw’s traps here aren’t all that memorable, there’s no Amanda or Dr. Gordon here to eventually reveal a tie to Jigsaw’s game or anything. Actually, when the twist does come, some viewers might find the results with these characters a bit too nihilistic and tied away from the rest of the series. Personally, my mind was blown too hard to think of that in the theater, although even as I write this and have to think about it more, I don’t really have much of an issue with how they were handled.
At the end of the day, this movie is more of the same. It’s ultimately another set of twists to complicate a heavily coiled mythology that would be a nightmare to explain in chronological order. Are you a fan, are you okay with this? If so, you should come out of this new one satisfied with its use of the franchise’s key elements. If you were hoping for an innovative approach to these films, you aren’t going to find it here. Maybe you will next year, though.