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Jigsaw (2017) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


JigsawIf it’s Halloween, then it must be Saw. That was the slogan for one of the most successful horror franchises that began in 2004. It would go on to last seven films in seven years back to back. Then in 2010 the franchise would say its goodbye with ‘Saw 3D‘ (aka Saw: The Final Chapter) as the makers began losing ideas and the rise of another popular franchise was at hand. But seven years later we see ourselves facing the return of one of the most prolific horror icons in some time with ‘Jigsaw‘ as the Spierig Brothers helm the project.

It’s been 10 years since the death of John Kramer and bodies are beginning to show up with evidence pointing to Jigsaw himself. As Detective Holleran investigates the crime scenes a deadly game has begun as five victims must fight their way to freedom. Is it possible that the Jigsaw killer has arisen from the grave? Or is the possibility of a follower hoping to resurrect a legacy of carnage.

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As an avid fan of the original Saw film the series would go on to make six sequels thereafter. Up until ‘Saw III‘ you could justify or argue if the series should have ended with the death of John Kramer. However, the series continued and Costas Mandylor (Detective Hoffman), would carry the franchise all the way till the end. I enjoyed all the Saw films and what made the series so special was the fact that it tried to be different from all the other horror franchises in existence. With a complex story arc and returning characters there was a consistency with the series. And it must be said the composer for all the movies, Charlie Clouser, did an amazing job in utilizing alternative themes within each entry.

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With the announcement of Lionsgate returning to the Saw series in 2016 there were mixed feelings and were more negative than positive. All I asked myself was why? Obviously it’s a cash grab for the studio but as a fan of the series there wasn’t really any more story left to tell after ‘Saw 3D‘. It may have been the worst entry in the franchise but the twist ending provided a somewhat satisfying closure. By returning seven years later the movie would have to be a game changer and with a purpose. Unfortunately, all of my worst fears came true and even left me in anger after the movie had ended.

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The movie has the feel of a Saw film. The differences are mostly aesthetic and this time we escape from the dark and dingy hallways to more of the outside. Sort of like what we had seen in ‘Saw 3D‘ but more so. Now let’s get to the traps. They are no different this time around and can even be described as being less convoluted. I would actually say there weren’t any stand out traps. And finally the story element. We get to see a lot of the investigation aspect with the detectives; including Holleran. There comes a point when paranoia begins to build up and fingers being pointed in different directions as possible accomplices. And of course the almighty question that gets brought up and looms over the entire movie is if John Kramer has actually come back from the grave.

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We now get to the ending and the twist of the movie. As with all Saw films there’s an element of surprise as typically a montage would follow. But the twist in ‘Jigsaw‘ is but a summation of why this movie shouldn’t have taken place. It’s no different from any of the previous movies although it does add backstory to Jigsaw. Yet the revelation falls flat and feels like a desperation move by the studio to continue the franchise. To the general audience who may not have seen any of the Saw films going back 13 years the reaction may be different. As a reboot it may bode well with the newer audiences. But for the loyal fans of the series it may generate a negative reaction and maybe to the point of infuriating.

For the acting, I didn’t mind most of the detectives. As for the five victims who awaken in a barn they start off strong but then eventually fall into cliched hollow characters that when they die you have no feel for them. Tobin Bell, a.k.a Jigsaw, was good although his screen time wasn’t all that memorable but it was nice to see him reprise his role once again as the iconic villain. As a return to the franchise the movie was a total let down and completely unnecessary. Depending on whether the movie does well at the box-office I fear that more sequels may be in the works. Ultimately, ‘Jigsaw‘ should’ve stayed buried.

Rating: 5/10

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What do you think of ‘Jigsaw‘? Do you plan on watching the movie? Comment below and share your thoughts.

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Saw III (2006) Review

Saw3_cape10It must be Halloween and by now the season has bowed to Lionsgate’s horror sensation with the Saw franchise. Director Darren Lynn Bousman returns with the sequel which sees Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, and a whole slew of new victims lined up to play a game. The studio at this point had made a home in the month of October right before Halloween and with much success.

Jigsaw and Amanda have disappeared while detectives continue to investigate the murders. A new game is thrust into motion as Jigsaw prepares for what could very well be his last days on earth. Lynn Denlon is chosen to keep John Kramer alive long enough while another test subject makes his way through a series of tests. It leads to a revelation in the finale that may set up deadly results.

We’ve arrived to one of my favorite Saw films up till this point and a lot can be said about this entry. Let’s begin by saying that this is perhaps the most depth we’ll get from Jigsaw as his cancer has taken a toll on him. Actor Tobin Bell even made it clear to the writers that the idea of his character being in the process of dying due to pancreatic cancer was not something that was easy to accept. And now we’ve reached the point where an anti-hero is on the cusp of breathing his last breath. I loosely use the term anti-hero because of John Kramer’s reputation as someone who goes after the people who have wronged.

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There’s two story plots we follow as one of them involves Dr. Lynn Denlon and the other story line that follows Jeff (Angus Macfadyen). The two characters who are being tested by Jigsaw are probably the most in which general audiences can connect with. Both will have a connection towards the end of the film but it can be predicted early on. What this movie tries to delve into is the idea of loss and how people grieve in the process. Jeff has just lost his son due to an accident while his son rode a bike until a car hit him from out of nowhere. Revenge has been on Jeff’s mind and has been wanting to confront the man responsible for his son’s death. His family had been turned upside down as it had also affected his young daughter. Just from how the movie sets this up anyone can connect to his character.

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Let’s now talk about the traps because this time around the traps are more focused on forgiveness. As Jeff goes room to room confronting those who had any involvement in his son’s case were subject to a test. From the lone witness to the judge handling the case to then finally confronting the man responsible for his son’s death, Jeff must find it inside to let his anger take over him or try to heal the wounds that have hurt his family. It’s not until the end of the movie that we discover if Jeff has been rehabilitated through his journey of pain. What can be said though is that each trap is unsettling and leaves the blood in Jeff’s hands.

As mentioned before Shawnee Smith returns in the sequel as Jigsaw’s apprentice as it was revealed at the end of ‘Saw II‘. What we learn from Jigsaw is that Amanda has troubles that stretch greater than just a drug problem. Her trouble of keeping her emotions in check has resulted in several deaths; some of which were survivors. One of the big twists we discover is that Jigsaw was testing Amanda and not Lynn Denlon as was first thought. Ultimately, the decision Amanda makes in whether to keep Lynn alive or to do away with her will have huge ramifications for everyone; including John Kramer. The chemistry between Tobin and Shawnee is amazing. As the series reaches this point we learn more about Amanda and in some ways feel bad for her. In some ways she is a lost soul battling to see John’s ways.

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Both Angus Macfadyen and Bahar Soomekh did a great job as their characters were taken through an emotional hell. In many ways it’s rare to find characters that we root for. Although it’s a Saw film and there’s expectations that usually leads to death it was nice to see a change in the formula compared to the previous films. Then when we talk about Jigsaw it’s almost difficult to say if he’s a bad guy or a vigilante who does what society is afraid of doing. This adds another element of intrigue to an already crazy series.

Throughout the movie we get seeds planted for if and when another Saw film is made. Inevitably a sequel is greenlit but the question that’s asked is how does a franchise continue when the lead character has met his fate? An interesting fact is that ‘Saw III‘ went on to become the most successful horror sequel and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. This movie would go on to be the longest film in the franchise by coming in just under two hours. Stemming from the success the fans were clamoring for more, or should we say the studio wanted more?  The studio would push forward with another film in 2007 and would take the franchise into uncharted territory.

Rating: 6.5/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Saw III’? Did you watch the movie in theaters? And up till this point which were some of your favorite traps? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Saw II (2005) Review

MV5BOTRjMDNmNjctNjg4ZC00N2ZkLThkMzMtOWRmYTFhMzA1ZDZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Jigsaw is back and this time a new game is being played in the sequel to its predecessor. As Detective Matthews discovers the body of a close friend/informant he is thrust into a game of survival. And this time his patience is tested as his son, Daniel, is trapped. Can Eric Matthews find his son in time before it’s too late? Or does Jigsaw have something up his sleeve that turns the game upside down?

The director this time around and who would go on to direct the next two sequels is Darren Lynn Bousman. Being a first time director may not have been the only challenge going into ‘Saw II‘, but moreso asking how do we follow-up to such a smart and visceral original idea. Focus this time around was putting the villain out there on center stage. Actor Tobin Bell returns to play John Kramer (a.k.a Jigsaw) who now has the opportunity to show who he really is about versus lying on the floor for an entire first film.

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What I really enjoyed about ‘Saw II‘ was not only how we’re watching the chaos unfold but rather seeing through the eyes of Jigsaw himself. Instead of Jigsaw being this escapable superhuman character we get a deep and telling account of a terminally ill individual whose agenda is to help heal the wounds of the lost through unorthodox methods. Taking into account the things we take for granted in life and those who we hurt in the process all plays into how John Kramer spends his limited time left before his eventual demise.

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This time around our main player in the game is Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Eric Matthews and his involvement in the police force. His relationship with his son Daniel is shaken to its core and Jigsaw takes note of it. By capturing his son, Eric must play a game with John Kramer in order to see his son again. The game itself is centered around Eric’s weakness and his unwillingness to listen. With time ticking away you watch Eric Matthews get more and more desperate and thus falls into his old habits that has got him into this situation in the first place. Very few movies had the courage to bring the villain out into the open. Give credit where credit is due  however as Darren Lynn Bousman steered the carnage and suspense through the lens.

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There are two separate events happening at the same time and we shift between the two story arcs in intricate fashion. One in the which we’ve already spoken about in Jigsaw and Eric Matthews but the other is centered around eight individuals who awaken in a room where they have limited time to locate serums before a deadly toxin poisons them. Included in the group is Daniel Matthews, son of Eric, as he becomes the link to everyone in the group as to why they’ve assembled there. The group dynamic is interesting because everyone is in the same situation yet everyone seems to turn on each other.

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Now it’s time to discuss the traps in the film because after the original movie audiences remembered the inventiveness of some of the obstacles characters found themselves in. This time around the traps are more intricate yet relatively simple as compared to the reverse bear trap as seen with Shawnee Smith who played Amanda. Probably the most memorable trap that made everyone squirmish was the needle pit. When Amanda was thrown in against her will and fell onto the needles it just brought a reaction by audiences that would terrify them if they ever saw a needle again. Other mentionable traps included a furnace where only the devil could help you out and a box in which a certain person puts their arms through it leads to a miserable time.

The sequel not only solidifies the traps in the franchise but also the twists as well. In ‘Saw II’ we get a twist that not only sets up for the sequel but also gives a revelation on what Jigsaw’s master plan is. Not only is the sequel a great one but it sets the mark that Saw is a legitimate franchise with a memorable character in Jigsaw who has more story to tell. Tobin Bell plays a character  who is eerie yet resonates with audiences as it relates to how society treats the terminally ill. Composed as a fictional character he resonates on many levels as future installments will explore. If you thought the sequel was terrifying just wait till we talk about ‘Saw III’ as it will open the world of Jigsaw to a whole other level.

Rating: 7/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Saw II‘? How does it compare to the original and was this the jumping point for the Jigsaw character? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Saw (2004) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


MV5BMjE4MDYzNDE1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDY2OTYwNA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_From the creator who has brought us the Conjuring and Insidious franchises began his career with a little gem that put Lionsgate on the map. Both James Wan and Leigh Whannell came together in introducing a new thriller that involves a killer who puts his victims in unimaginable situations of life and death. The difference this time around is that the victims are guilty of taking life for granted and are put in traps that revolve around their own personal sins. Not your usual psycho killer scenario but near the philosophical prowess of Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter. So let’s jump right into it and delve into the film that started it all.

Two men awaken in a dilapidated bathroom unknowing of how they got there. With little time they must work together to figure out who put them there and why. When we learn of a serial killer named Jigsaw through the viewpoint of Dr. Gordon both men begin to realize why they are there and that escape may be more complicated than they thought. And in a stunning series of events everything builds up to a shocking finale.

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What many people may not know is that the film was made on a $1 million budget and everything was filmed in one location. And with such a budget we were able to get Danny Glover and Cary Elwes. The big mystery that would eventually reveal itself at the end is the emergence of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw himself. Jigsaw himself wasn’t given away through exposition but instead it fools the audience into thinking who’s pulling the strings the whole time. Even the ending has a gratifying result because soon as we discover the perpetrator it leaves the viewer wanting to see more. It also worked to a point that if the studio decided to not move forward with a sequel it would leave a mark in cinematic history.

There were two memorable scenes in the film and one of them would go on to be iconic in the entire series. The scene involves Amanda, played by Shawnee Smith, as she awakens with a reverse bear trap on her head. She must retrieve the key from her supposedly dead cell mate before the timer goes off. Simplicity is what made the film original and frightening especially when it comes to the traps. As the series progresses the traps get overly complicated but the reverse bear trap remains one of the most terrifying sequences and became the staple in the franchise.

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We may not have gotten a lot of background into Jigsaw but Tobin Bell would be revealed to be Hollywood’s next horror icon. Though little is known about his character we begin to discover the psyche in how Jigsaw works. And what’s different compared to the likes of ‘Friday the 13th‘ and ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street‘ is that we get a character that has a motivation besides just killing for the sake of killing. Jigsaw finds flaws in his victims and puts them in traps with hopes that their experience will change their perspectives on life. Again, this is not your typical horror thriller where someone goes after people with revenge in mind. Rather in a twisted sort of way it puts everyone in the city on edge.

As far as the acting in the film it is not groundbreaking nor Oscar worthy. There are moments when the lead character, Dr. Gordon, does come off a little over the top. We can’t even judge the performance by the villain because he’s lying on the floor the whole time. The only reasonable performance we see is with Danny Glover who is the detective that’s put on the case as he searches for the suspect behind the murders.

The movie is not perfect as there are far fetched scenarios sprinkled throughout. But the overall reaction to the film when it came out in 2004 was that of praise and raised moviegoer eyebrows. With the success the studio immediately moved forward with greenlighting a sequel that would come out in a year’s time. It was the dawn of a new franchise and would go on to become one of the most successful horror franchises in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rating: 7/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Saw‘? Would you consider the original film to be groundbreaking in the horror franchise? Comment below and share your thoughts.