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There is a myriad of horror franchise all constructed around the same fundamental premise. An unstoppable serial killer, supernatural advantages are optional, slices and dices his way through a field of victims. Often referred to ‘slash and dash’ of ‘blood and boobs’ flicks for rather obvious reasons. The movies have something in common with their psychopathic antagonist. Just when the unfortunate victims think they have defeated the monster, it comes back to resume its murderous spree. The franchise is much like that creature. Just when it appears that the producers have completed the series of movies they released a trailer for the next installment. That there are still more to tell the story. The franchises are inexorably extended far beyond any reasonable rationale for continuation. Similarly, there were several points when despite films ending and wrapping up many of the ongoing loose threads throughout the series, the studio's executives ascertain that there might still be some financial benefit to yet another installment. This trend was exacerbated by the profit margins enhanced by global marketplaces, streaming services and cable licensing, DVD/Blu-ray sales and their always profitable extended cuts and special additions. Just a few minutes of extra carnage is sufficient for those bottom-line driven executives to justify another release. This seems to be the driving force behind the subject of this consideration, ‘Jigsaw.’ The eighth, and hopefully last, installment of the ‘Saw’ franchise. This is the series of movies that are held responsible for the mainstream acceptance of so-called ‘torture porn horror, this dubious variation on the viscerally centric slasher flick substitutes devising the most horrific ways of inflicting exceptional amounts of pain before extinguishing a life. Before ‘Saw,’ the only movies that were this graphic were extreme grindhouse movies or movies with the sole function of revolting the audience to the point of nausea. For example look up something such as ‘Cannibal Holocaust.’ Just a warning, unless you have an exceptionally strong constitution or psychopathic tendencies don’t watch it. Moving back to the film at hand, it is a matter of degree but in many respects, it is just as reprehensible and morally dubious, but the violence is slightly less allowing some subconscious leeway in accepting the violence as a product of special effects.

Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black), is a criminal heatedly chased by the police. The pursuit leads to a rooftop whereas they are about to apprehend him he activates something. He brags that people will die. The audience is shown the fulfillment of that statement as in a barn five people are held captive each with a metal noose secured around their necks. A tape recording of John Kramer, better known as his criminal alter blood sacrifice. When the mechanism is activated the five-people are inexorable pulled towards whirling saw blades. Four allow themselves to be cut by the blades thus avoiding the lethal conclusion but one wretched victim passed out and, unable to offer the sacrifice of his blood, is pulled completely into the saw to a very messy demise.

The next test involved Carly (Brittany Allen), a young woman who grew up as a self-serving, petty thief. She is inadvertently pulled into the ‘game’ when she steals the purse from a woman. While checking for cash and valuables, Carly discovers an inhaler. She realizes the medical importance, but when she goes back to return it, the woman is dead from an asthma attack brought on by the robbery. For this sin, Carly was deemed in need of being tested. Jigsaw kidnaped her and taken to a barn owned by his acolyte/accomplish/wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell). The barn is the location of the five tested with the blood sacrifice and saw blades. This film\makes heavy use of references from the previous seven movies albeit not with too much thought to infusing them with any original twists. Several of the characters introduced here are built along the prototypical lines of a few of the more noteworthy individuals in the franchise. An example can be seen in Carly who shares like a franchise stalwart, Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). Both young women were petty criminals considered in need of testing by Jigsaw. If course the most significant difference is Amanda was the first person to survive the test after which she became an apprentice of Jigsaw.

After surviving the saw test, the master of righteous pain has another trail by agony waiting. Carly’s responsibility in the death of the asthmatic woman. Her test to prevent he deaths of the others Carly had been given a poison. She is given the choice of three syringes; the only one contains the antidote, the second saline ant the third a very corrosive acid. A member of the group, Ryan (Paul Braunstein), injects Carly with all thee. With dead bodies starting to appear a police investigation is started with

Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Hunt (Clé Bennett) taking the lead. Initially, Halloran suspects Dr. Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore), a forensic pathologist whose wife has murdered two years ago. From there the descent past hackneyed and abysmally predicable to something that is its form of torture to endure watching. The story is so predictable that I surmise that the actors killed off relatively early are the fortunate ones.

They might be reticent to say openly, but there is a core fan base that finds the franchise entertaining. Enjoyment of this movie is restricted to those cinematically challenged. Their reasons for this anomalous reaction is beyond the scope of this and should be taken up with a mental help professional. From a more objective perspective, there are marked similarities between the plot points and those that were used in ‘Saw V.’ That installment is considered by many to be the nadir of the series and in a broader sense of the torture porn genre. One the focal points in both are the fateful transformation of a talented civil engineer, John Kramer into the serial killer proxy, Jigsaw. By this point in similar franchises of this gory category, the term ‘originality’ is applicable in only the loosest possible sense. The possible attraction in common is the perverse ingenuity applied by the screenwriters to devising the tests and traps. Aficionados may find themselves oddly admiring the elaborate devices and situations used to dispatch the hapless victim in the most gruesome, dehumanizing fashion possible. While the methods employed displayed a modicum of variation, there were fundamentally the same as before. A case might be made that this was done to support the idea within the context of the flick that this is the work of a copycat. That thread attributes more thought than supported by the overall narrative texture of the movie. Like the game, ‘Telephone,’ where a statement passed through a string of players until what emerges is unrecognizable, the concepts of the victim being forced to appreciate life has been lost. That at least provided an iota of rationale and motivation. What remains is on impulse only hopefully to fade away entirely.

Posted 01/13/2018

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