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Film review: Jigsaw – torture-porn sequel, aka Saw 8, delivers thrills but lacks cutting edge

The seventh sequel to Saw takes up the story 10 years after the death of the Jigsaw Killer. There are violent deaths aplenty, but Jigsaw lacks the visceral intensity of the earlier films

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 3:02pm

2/5 stars

It was back in 2004 when director James Wan (The Conjuring, Fast & Furious 7) burst onto the scene with an effective low-budget shocker that pitted two imprisoned strangers against each other in a deadly battle of wits. Thirteen years and seven sequels later, Saw has become the most profitable horror franchise of all time and returns – after a seven-year absence – for another round of violent retribution.

Directed by the Spierig Brothers, whose previous offerings include sci-fi thrillers Daybreakers and Predestination, Jigsaw finds the authorities baffled by a series of murders that bear all the hallmarks of the notorious Jigsaw Killer. But as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died 10 years earlier, is this the work of a copycat or is he operating from beyond the grave?

While an assortment of police and coroners pore over mutilated corpses and grow suspicious of one another, a new group of seemingly innocent victims find themselves trapped in a labyrinth of Jigsaw’s elaborate “games”. To win their freedom, each must confess to some previously committed sin, or fall prey to a host of deadly Heath Robinson-style torture traps.

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Since the series’ inception, Saw has attempted to balance its gleeful sense of sadism with an almost Old Testament-style puritanism. Character development has always been scarce, while the films thrive on repeated red herrings, last-minute reveals and ludicrous plot twists nobody can see coming. Jigsaw delivers on all these counts, but the kills themselves lack a certain visceral intensity.

Earlier instalments, while never particularly scary, created a palpable sense of tactile terror from their gruesome games. The Spierigs give us gore aplenty, but nothing that can compare to a pit of hypodermic needles or the unflinching brutality of hacking off one’s own foot. Jigsaw may have all its pieces in place, but it lacks the nerve to cut to the quick.

Jigsaw opens on October 26

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Note: this review was corrected on October 27 to reflect the fact Tobin Bell’s character did not die of cancer.