Last month, I had the opportunity to check out the 4DX in-theater technology for Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of IT, and this week, I had a chance to hop into the hot seat once again for Jigsaw, the latest entry of the Saw franchise, which was helmed by Michael and Peter Spierig. As someone who is something of a Saw enthusiast, I was eager to see what the brothers behind such films as Daybreakers and Predestination had in store with their new deadly game of survival and redemption.
**SPOILER ALERT: Because I’ll be discussing how the 4DX technology played into certain specific moments in Jigsaw, there will be some spoilers that follow (plus, I have my own “waxing poetic” moments about this franchise that I’m eager to discuss). I’d recommend seeing the film for yourself first before reading any further.**
First, let’s dig into Jigsaw. It’s been seven years since the last Saw movie hit theaters, and as a longtime fan of the series, I’m probably being kind in my assessment by saying that perhaps the sequel wasn’t exactly the strongest note for the franchise to go out on (yeah, it sucked). But I’ll be the first to admit that, in the six Octobers that have followed the release of Saw 3D, there has been this empty hole in my horror-loving heart because it seemed like there was no more Jigsaw to get us through the Halloween season. So, when it was announced that not only were we getting a new Saw film, but that two of the more under-appreciated modern genre directors were going to be at the helm (the aforementioned Predestination and Daybreakers are both legit great films, and I do recommend seeking them out), I was more than excited to see what the Spierigs would be cooking up for Jigsaw.
And for the most part, the Spierigs did a solid job. My quibbles are minor, and I have a few issues with how this story parlays into all the previous installments, but by leaps and bounds, Jigsaw is a huge improvement over Saw 3D. Will it win over any of the Saw naysayers out there? Hardly. But as someone who was just geeked out to watch that Twisted Pictures logo do its thing on the big screen, I was down to party with all of Jigsaw’s shenanigans.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers, then you know the set-up: there’s a new Jigsaw-style game going down, and a pair of detectives (Callum Keith Rennie and Clé Bennett) are trying to figure out just how John Kramer—10 years after his death—is still managing to capture new victims and subject them to his own brand of private justice. They’re getting some help from Logan (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson), a pair of morgue workers who immediately recognize the Jigsaw trademarks once bodies begin piling up on their proverbial slab. The race is on to stop this new deadly game, and it’s up to the police to put all the pieces of this new perplexing Jigsaw-related puzzle together before time runs out for everyone.
So here’s the rub (and this is where things might get a bit spoilery, so again, if you haven’t seen Jigsaw and care about any of the film’s reveals, now is the time to turn back): this latest chapter in the Saw saga absolutely works much better than its immediate predecessor and feels very much in line with what you would expect from a film from this franchise. All the traps were great, the kills were wickedly fun and had some killer visceral moments that certainly punch up the police procedural elements. But as a whole, a lot of Jigsaw just felt “safe.” I know that sounds strange for a movie where we see a woman get liquefied by an acid injection or see some poor dude hacked to bits by an inverted spiral slicer of death, but I was hoping for a story that might push this franchise forward, and I think Jigsaw at times leans far too heavily on the past.
Seeing some of the past infamous Saw contraptions was great, and what fan of these films doesn’t squeal in delight anytime Billy the Puppet rolls in on his trusty tricycle? I just wish things had gone a bit further, because you can only rely on the ghosts of the past for so long, and I think that it’s now officially time to let poor John Kramer get some rest after all this time (and I say this as someone who thinks Tobin Bell has given us truly one of the best icons we’ve seen during the last 20 years of horror).
Also, a few of the plot elements just didn’t add up for me, especially the location of where the game was being played, because it just seems so completely obvious, you have to wonder how some of these guys are actually detectives. There’s also a bit of a twist that comes along in the finale, and it works for me, but I think it also convolutes a lot of what we already know about Kramer, and somewhat diminishes his character’s legacy, too (like, could John have had any more free time? The dude was apparently always building a small empire of followers, and I honestly can barely keep up with five different friends over the course of one month).
Also, I really was hoping for something more from the Doctor Gordon (Cary Elwes) storyline, especially because they had built up to him taking over for John Kramer by the end of Saw 3D, but there’s none of the one-footed doc to be had here. Bummer.
That being said, I still enjoyed Jigsaw even if I found a few of the details a bit questionable. I will say, though, that I probably got way more enjoyment out of it because of the 4DX experience, as I felt like the technology put us squarely in the middle of the madness. If you’re unfamiliar with 4DX, it’s a wholly immersive theatrical experience, complete with water, smoke, and lightning effects, where your seat moves and shakes along with the action on the big screen. A character kicks a door in? You’re in for a jolt. Someone bites it in a deliciously gory way? Get ready for some simulated blood spatter coming right at you (don’t worry, they’re just small spritzes of water—no real bloodshed happens!).
I’ve said it before, but I really do believe that 4DX feels like an extreme version of what William Castle tried to do with his own theatrical gimmicks during the 1950s and ’60s, and the advanced technology really complemented the frenzied action of the latest from Michael and Peter Spierig. I’m a big fan of the way the seats move in a complementary motion that mimics cinematographer Ben Nott’s work here, especially whenever we’re taking in the scale of a potential trap in Jigsaw, because it truly makes you feel like you are right there. During the most excellent silo scene where Anna (Laura Vandervoort) and Mitch (Mandela van Peebles), two of Jigsaw’s latest charity cases, find themselves being buried by grain, and then have to contend with a rain shower of blunt and dangerous objects, our seats tipped forward really far and made you feel like you were falling right into that death trap alongside those two unfortunate souls, and it was like riding a Saw-themed roller coaster at times.
It’s not a presentation that works with every movie, but man, when it comes to films with a lot of action—and in this case, tons of blood and mechanized mayhem—4DX is a ridiculously fun and thrilling way to see a movie (and I can only begin to imagine how much fun the new Star Wars is going to be this December). If you’re able to see something in 4DX, I highly recommend giving it a try at least once, because I have quickly fallen in love with this immersive way to see movies, and I suspect you just might fall in love with it, too.