8. Saw V (2008)
Repeated instalments do little to lessen the impact of Jigsaw’s games.
New director David Hackl makes every scene look appropriately unpleasant, and there’s a nice “Pit and the Pendulum” sequence to open proceedings.
The FBI are closing in on Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) who has adopted Jigsaw’s mantle to carry on his legacy. Hoffman may be less scary and complex than Kramer, but Mandylor does serviceable work from here on in the franchise, despite the explanation for his monstrous actions being that he becomes a serial killer because he had a bad day (the old Joker justification). Every one of Tobin Bell’s scenes in flashback – a staple of the series since his character’s death – adds further depth to his character and is an undeniable treat. The victims in this film are all thoroughly unlikeable, two-dimensional and annoying, which makes it all the funnier that this group actually have a decent chance of survival – that is, if they would just stop throwing each other under the bus.
The plot is far from dull, and meets the quota for grisly thrills, but we’re still back-treading to retroactively explain events that have come before, with clumsy commentary on crime and punishment along the way (“Anyone who survives my method is instantly rehabilitated!”). At least the ending of this film is visually striking and memorable.
7. Jigsaw (2017)
Jigsaw is a solid series revival from talented directors (the Spierig Brothers of Predestination and Daybreakers), but aside from using the finale to set up a potentially interesting direction for the franchise going forward, this 2017 release does little that is particularly revolutionary.
There are pleasing references to the earlier movies for die-hard fans and plenty of new traps – a highlight for its sheer simplicity is a rapidly filling grain silo that immobilises you in order to have an assortment of sharp and heavy things drop on your head Tom and Jerry-style. If you’ve seen even a handful of these movies you should know the formula for guessing who Jigsaw’s latest accomplice is: it’s not the really obvious suspect, it’s the slightly less obvious one.
The new characters aren’t any great shakes and there’s a dearth of much-needed tension regarding their morally questionable backstories. Still, there’s a very cool laser-collar trap used for the finale and the expected twist that goes with every new instalment is a little different to what you’ve come to expect, so that’s something novel.
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6. Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
Spiral is just another Saw film and not much more.
It opens with an amoral victim in a trap, it uses the franchise theme music in the scene of big revelations and refers back to previous films in the series. It also claims erroneously that “Jigsaw didn’t target cops” (except all the times that he demonstrably did).
Chris Rock is solid in the lead as Decective Zeke Banks, the son of a legendary cop (Samuel L. Jackson) who is largely despised by his department for putting away his partner for murder years before. Soon a Jigsaw copycat begins kidnapping the remaining dirty cops on the force and Zeke follows a trail of clues that may yield a very personal connection to the case.
Rock dials his usual wisecracking persona back a little to better match a fairly gritty cop thriller, and the larger story should satisfy longstanding Saw fans as a decent entry in the franchise even if it does little if anything to convert the uninitiated and occasionally gets weighed down by clunky character exposition.