PLOT A psychotic killer, presumed dead, appears to have returned.
CAST Matt Passmore, Laura Vandervoort, Callum Keith Rennie
RATED R (extreme gore)
BOTTOM LINE The “Saw” series continues with its usual combination of stomach-churning gore and a brain-dead screenplay.
John Kramer, the serial murderer who fancies himself to be the bloody sword of justice, appears to be back in “Jigsaw,” the eighth film in the infamous “Saw” franchise. Ten years after his alleged death, Kramer — or someone copying him — is once again preying on sinners, criminals and liars, trapping them in elaborate torture chambers designed to terrify them into confessing their sins. Sometimes he slices them to pieces anyway, though. You might say he has the wisdom of Solomon and the temperament of Torquemada.
There was something semi-seductive about Kramer’s twisted morality in the original “Saw” (2004), but the novelty wore off long ago. The plots became embarrassingly silly and convoluted, like a long horror soap opera (“The Young and the Headless,” maybe). With “Jigsaw,” the franchise is back to the basics — making bad people suffer — but it’s out of ideas. “Jigsaw” can’t even think of anyone interesting to kill.
The five victims here, all trapped in a farmhouse rigged with lethal booby traps, range from the irredeemable to the merely crummy, and Kramer’s punishments don’t always fit the crime. Anna (Laura Vandervoort) seems to be grieving over a lost child. Ryan (Paul Braunstein) is a shady mortgage broker. Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles) placed a dishonest classified ad that led to a buyer’s death. And if that seems like scraping the bottom of the criminal barrel, how about the guy who made a filing error at work? With everything going on in the world, you’d think Kramer could find bigger fish to fry.
Meanwhile, every time a mangled victim pops up somewhere, Det. Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) plops the body before coroner Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) and his Goth-rock assistant, Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). These scenes allow the directors, billed as the Spierig Brothers, to give us a few more minutes of on-screen gore. That rhythm — blood-red splatter, then a gray-green autopsy — gets pretty tedious, though, especially when these characters and their dialogue are among the most lifeless things in the movie.
In the end, the central mystery in “Jigsaw” — is Kramer alive or dead? — doesn’t really matter one way or the other. This franchise clearly intends to keep inflicting punishment on moviegoers for years to come.