Every horror series that runs for a long time becomes fascinating by default, but the Saw series was fascinating long before it limped to a supposed finish line with 2010’s Saw: The Final Chapter. But nothing can keep a popular horror franchise dead for long and the series returns (reboots?) this year with Jigsaw, the eighth film in the long-running, critically despised, and surprisingly worthy-of-additional-study series.

A Jigsaw first look, along with plot details and comments from the film’s directors, has arrived online, so let’s take a look.

As you may remember (and as some of you have tried to forget), the Saw series told the story of Tobin Bell’s John Kramer, a serial killer who went by the name Jigsaw and would teach his victims valuable life lessons by placing them in perverse and gruesome traps that would force them to overcome physical trauma or perish. Oh, and he had a brain tumor. And he died in Saw III. But they still made four more Saw movies after that, including a sequel that took place during the third movie. This series is weird!

Entertainment Weekly spoke with Jigsaw directors Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig and learned that their film takes place 10 years after The Final Chapter and a bunch of new bodies are showing up. Has Jigsaw returned from the grave or has another one of his (many, many, many) secret apprentices decided to get this murder machine going again? That question probably doesn’t matter much to Laura Vandervoort, whose character can be seen just trying to survive in the first look image below.

Jigsaw first look

The Saw movies were traditionally directed by people who worked on the crew of previous entries (remember when the first one was a Sundance movie from a then-unknown James Wan?), so it’s the Spierig brothers who make me very interested to see what Jigsaw is going to be. Their vampire movie Daybreakers is one of the cleverest horror movies of the past decade and their deranged science fiction film Predestination is begging for a cult following. I’m also heartened by this quote from Michael Spierig, who says that their film will be more fun and less vicious than previous entries:

We’ve got some pretty wild traps in the film — we don’t shy away from the gore. It’s such a perfect Halloween scarefest. It’s perhaps not quite as vicious and more fun, which is something we tried to inject into it. But it’s still full of good fun gore, that’s for sure. And, on top of that, it’s got a really great mystery, and there’s very interesting twists. It’s Saw for 2017.

The Saw movies were at their best when they focused on putting amusing characters in clever/awful situations – the weakest of the bunch were the entries that had gore and nothing but gore on their minds. The Saw movies are junk, but there’s nothing wrong with good junk and I think the Spierig brothers may be the guys to deliver some really, really good junk later this year.

I’m especially interested in how Jigsaw treats the Saw canon, because the Saw canon is very real and very dense and hilariously complicated. While the series’ outrageous gore grabbed all of the headlines and earned all of the scorn, it’s the soap operatic storytelling and extreme attention to continuity that kept me coming back to the series over the years. While most horror series forget their own rules and contradict themselves as they go on, the Saw movies doubled down on making its labyrinthine and overly complex mythology as airtight as possible. Plot threads planted in the first film inexplicably pay off in the last one, for example. These movies are downright nutty. It remains to be seen if the new movie will pick up this torch and run with it or start with a clean slate.

Jigsaw stars Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, Brittany Allen, and Josiah Black and opens on October 27, 2017.

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