After seven films, the never-ending ‘Saw’ horror franchise finally ended in 2010. A leader in the ‘torture porn’ genre, its bloody visions raked up a mountain of ghoulish dollars. Whether people enjoyed watching that sort of thing didn’t matter as the series became one of the most profitable horror franchises ever. That’s why we now have ‘Jigsaw’, the eighth gory extravaganza. Proof that money can resurrect any stagnant movie series, it shows one should never believe a movie’s ‘final chapter’ is really the end.

A decade after his evil reign ended, serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back. That’s what the police are led to believe as a new series of murders fitting his pattern surface. They are baffled as Jigsaw met a definitive end with his deadly earnest killings seemingly concluded after his death. Unfortunately that’s little comfort to new victims including Logan (Matt Passmore) and Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) who are trapped in one of his wicked torture chambers with death their only merciful escape.

It would be simple slamming ‘Jigsaw’ as violent rubbish but that’s taking the easy way out. Whilst the violence is more subdued than usual, it’s still ghastly to watch. To its credit ‘Jigsaw’ harks back to the original concept of the ‘Saw’ series. This outing is more mystery and suspense than endless gore as characters try to discover who is behind the slayings. The answer isn’t easy to guess as the script makes an effort in building on the established mythology with genuinely surprising twists.

The traps Jigsaw’s victims navigate are very hellish and part of the grotesque ‘fun’. The creativity gone into crafting new vile ways to kill might be concerning but the overall story maintains interest. There are plot holes galore if you think too hard but the franchise has never been known for its amazing story-telling. The performances are reasonable even if the actors mostly just react to events than instigating them. Bell has a grand time returning as the evil disciple of carnage with his calm and frosty demeanour almost as chilling as the traps he sets.

‘Jigsaw’ might not provide a charming night at the cinema but devotees should admire it. Whether this is ‘the end’ again remains to be seen. Only box office dollars will tell if Jigsaw returns for more brutality with the prospects of further sequels scarier than the series’ main antagonist.

Rating out of 10: 6

Happy Death Day

Horror movies are often given a bad rap. Sneered, despised and criticized, many see it as the slums of film-making. Little do critics realize the genre’s profitability often earning more money than many over-praised dramas. Unlike other cinematic genres like westerns, horror films are still popular and show no sign of vanishing. ‘Happy Death Day’ is another in a long-line looking to earn a crust. Captivating and interesting, it will probably be slammed for being a mere horror movie but should laugh all the way to the cemetery as it screams up box office dollars.

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is living on a university campus enjoying life. Waking up on her birthday she looks forward to a great day with friends Carter (Israel Broussard) and Lori (Ruby Modine). Evil strikes when a vicious killer ensures Tree’s birthday becomes her last. Following her death, Tree wakes up on the same day and is killed again. This pattern repeats itself until Tree figures out who is killing her and how to fight back against a killer who seems as unstoppable as her endless birthday.

Basically a horrific version of ‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Happy Death Day’ uses the ‘endless time’ concept well. Only by reliving her birthday can Tree discover the killer’s motivation and learn a few personal lessons along the way. There’s not much more to the film than that as ‘Happy Death Day’ is a generally no frills slasher flick with a cool idea. It mostly works due to Rothe’s magnetic presence and Christopher B Landon’s directorial flair.

Where ‘Happy Death Day’ comes unstuck is its lack of depth. Not every great horror movie needs massive substance, but it helps knowing character’s backgrounds which can make viewing more engaging. There are plenty of great suspects to uncover but a little more time exploring their mindset could have made for a better experience. The scares and gallows humour are mixed well with the kills becoming ‘fun’ for the ghoulishly minded.

‘Happy Death Day’ offers celebratory chills for fans to admire. It’s easy to watch with some decent performances and suitably chilling atmosphere. Horror movie critics will always be around but films like ‘Happy Death Day’ give it gloss even if it offers a birthday surprise not many would want.

Rating out of 10: 6