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Soundtrack review: Jigsaw (Charlie Clouser – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Jigsaw (Charlie Clouser – 2017)

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“Jigsaw” is a 2017 American horror film directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, and starring Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, and Hannah Emily Anderson. It is the eighth instalment in the Saw franchise, picking up over a decade after the death of the eponymous Jigsaw killer during the police investigation of a new succession of murders that fit his modus operandi.

I am happy to see the “Saw” franchise return; it’s one of my favourite horror series and I never believed it was truly over with “Saw 3D” and the big revelation there. Part of what made this franchise so special was Charlie Clouser’s haunting, chilling and gripping music, a feast of atmospheric texture that I still listen to quite often; I am not even only talking about the iconic “Hello Zepp” main theme that keeps being reworked with every new instalment but about the entire soundscape. I reviewed all 7 previous scores and you can find them here. Incidentally just now, 13 years after that first score did I find out that one of the instruments that I could never identify that produced those beloved sounds was Que Lastas, an instrument Charlie Clouser describes as “a large sheet of stainless steel with piano strings and metal rods attached. It is played with a cello bow to create scary tones that are often dissonant but always ominous”. Good to know.

Man, I missed these two word cue titles and the anticipation before the new Zepp theme comes. Welcome back, seductive darkness and screeching sounds coupled with ambient melodies, this is the sound that Charlie Clouser has developed so well over 7 years and he cleverly opens “Chase Edgar” with a familiar motif before taking the rug from under my feet and going full frantic action. This is for me the main change in sound after this long break, this is the evolution the composer mastered for his own Saw musical legacy: a fresher, more action oriented, sharper sound that feels like a wake up; I am even happier to hear, in the middle of “Bucket heads” a motif that it’s pure 90s Nine Inch Nails. I slowly recognise motifs from past movies as well like the opening of “USB Stick”, that lively alarm like part and the classic Saw keyboard from “Replica lair”.

It’s still fascinating to me how Charlie Clouser can make his music sound so sharp and pointy like a room taped with barbed wire; this is the sensation I get most often while watching the Saw movies, of thinks cutting and piercing and tearing off flesh, sharp things mostly and the music reflects this. I like the vivid nervy tension of the score, I like it when it goes batshit like in “Grain silo” which might me one of my favourite themes from the entire franchise. The biggest surprise though is the fact that “Zepp 8” is almost six minutes long and I always wanted a longer version of one of my favourite movie themes in recent years and I can’t get enough of it.

With “Jigsaw” it’s like the Charlie Clouser and his music had never left. 7 years turned to nothing and we got the natural continuation and evolution of the “Saw” sound. Keep it going I say as this latest instalment is louder and leaner than before and it all can only get better.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 31 / 65

Album excellence: 48%

Highlights:
Bucket Room
Tricycle
Carly Requiem
Kinky Tipes
Results Are In
Grain Silo
Show Me
Replica Lair
Probable Cause
Cycle Trap
Anna Ryan
Shotgun
Laser Collars
Zepp Eight
End Credits

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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