The Jigsaw Killer, John Kramer himself, is back! Or so say the writers of Jigsaw, the eighth entry in the epic torture-porn franchise. But questions remained. With a promising trailer in tow, can a brand new team of writers and directors do the impossible by bringing Kramer, and the dormant franchise, back from the dead? After finally getting a look at the film, I can definitively say yes, it’s back. Whether it is better than ever depends on what you like about the Saw franchise.

this cast … shines

Tobin Bell joins an all-new cast complete with your favorite Saw-specific tropes like: a determined investigator, a dirty cop, a doctor who makes questionable life choices, more shit-eating criminals than you can shake a stick at, and that guy who cut you off in traffic that you want to die but probably isn’t actually evil. Filling out these roles include actors who look like discount versions of your favorite MCU heroes. Matt Passmore (best known for his roles on TV’s The Glades and Last Man Standing), our ‘discount Jeremy Renner,’ probably ends up with the majority of the screen-time in what is largely an ensemble film. Paul Braunstein, who you may remember from the 2011 version of The Thing, plays a wisecracking, discount Paul Rudd. And rounding out our MCU lookalikes is Clé Bennett, playing a very serious Chadwick Boseman-type character. In all seriousness, this cast of relative unknowns shines, lending some much needed credibility to an otherwise ridiculous premise.

gore aplenty

What’s more, the solid cast looks fantastic in a well shot, well edited film. The rough, grainy footage and handheld camera work are gone, along with the seizure-inducing “quick cuts” and missing frame jumpy-cam editing that graced Saw films of old. Good riddance. Instead, the editing beautifully compliments solid cinematography efforts from Ben Nott. The directors, Michael and Peter Spierig, previously collaborated with Nott as their DP on the films Predestination and Daybreakers.The Spierig’s decision to reign in editor Kevin Greutert (Saw II-V) paid off, resulting in a far less stressful movie-watching experience.

In fact, all the way around, this film pays off on Peter Spierig’s earlier promise to deliver a movie that is less vicious and more fun. Therein, of course, lies the one complaint that hardcore Saw fans will raise. While there is gore aplenty, the brutality of Jigsaw pales in comparison to many of the previous installments. While the kills are graphic, and sometimes downright vicious, we are spared the agonizing torture of anything comparable to a man sawing his own leg off.

the right mix of humor and gore in a way that is uniquely “Saw”

Unfortunately, detractors of the Saw franchise are sure to complain about the weaknesses in the story. The writing team of Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg (Piranha 3D, Sorority Row) wisely do away with the overly complicated, often impossible interconnections that plagued Saws III-VII, but nothing will ever win over the haters. Their explanation for Jigsaw’s return here ultimately makes perfect sense, but will nevertheless cause certain crowds to scream “Shenanigans!” But, to be fair, those crying foul would find a reason to do so regardless. Personally, I applaud Goldfinger and Stolberg for opting for one big conceit, rather than several smaller, more convenient ones. In the end, the writers deliver the right mix of humor and gore in a way that is uniquely “Saw”-like, proving yet again why this is the perfect franchise for the Halloween season.

Jigsaw opens Friday, October 27, 2017 in theaters everywhere.