** (out of 5)
October 29, 2010
Tobin Bell as JIGSAW
Costas Mandylor as HOFFMAN
Betsy Russell as JILL
Dean Armstrong as CALE
Sean Patrick Flanery as BOBBY
Cary Elwes as DR. GORDON
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
On the whole, I have really enjoyed the run of “Saw” films we’ve had over the past seven years. Like most franchises, the best films have been the earlier ones, but unlike many horror franchises, the stories have held up pretty well over the years.
However, the latest (and allegedly the last) installment in the franchise is a huge step down. Don’t let the 3 in the title fool you… it’s number seven in the series, and it’s clear that the whole shebang is losing steam.
This new installment focuses on two storylines. One features Jigsaw’s protege Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who has escaped the trap set by Jigsaw’s widow Jill (Betsy Russell). Disfigured and uncovered, Hoffman is hunting Jill down. Meanwhile, a new set of games is afoot. Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a Jigsaw survivor who runs a support group for others that have escaped the killer’s traps. One night, he is kidnapped and thrust into a series of challenges meant to uncover his shady past and shine a light on the awful truth behind his fame.
Before I talk about the 3D aspect of the film, which is as much of a gimmick to get butts in the seats as it was in “Piranha 3D” and “My Bloody Valentine 3D,” let’s look at the story structure. While many people will dismiss the “Saw” films as nothing more than brutal torture porn, they have actually had some pretty well-written scripts over the years.
Unfortunately, all the rules and bizarre, twisted morality behind the earlier “Saw” movies is tossed out the window in this installment. In the past, Jigsaw made a point to only target people who deserved it. He never killed innocent people, and he always set out to teach a lesson. Once Jigsaw died, these rules were followed for the most part, although there have been some deviation, especially with Hoffman’s character in the past couple films.
In “Saw 3D,” all of these rules are tossed out the window, and we’re left with nothing more than a revenge story and a standard serial killer who cuts through anyone in his way. The spirit of Jigsaw is utterly lost in this film, and it deteriorates into nothing but an excuse for human mutilation.
In this respect, while there’s more traps with elaborate set-ups, they’re all empty inside. In previous films, even the most out-of-place deaths were there to make a point in the end. Now, we’re just given gory set-ups with no relevance to the rest of the film. They even go so far to have a dream sequence featuring a trap, which is the epitome of lazy filmmaking.
The only reason to actually see this film in the theaters is to take advantage of the 3D experience. It’s hardly necessary for the story, plot or characters, but gorehounds and horror fans might get a kick out of the blood, guts and flesh thrown at the camera. Because it was shot for 3D and not shoehorned in as an afterthought (like the painful and dreadful “My Soul to Take”), “Saw 3D” looks slick. But in the end, this is just a last-ditch effort to bring people in.
I’m all for gimmicky 3D, and I don’t feel I completely wasted my money seeing “Saw 3D.” However, I would have preferred a better written film with relevant action that hinged on Jigsaw’s original spirit than this mess of a splatterfest.
Sure, there’s an ending to the series, but it’s painfully obvious it’s left things open for a “Saw 8” if this film brings in the cash. The ending was decent enough and on the whole was better than the bulk of the film. But still, it’s time to put the “Saw” movies in their own grave… and this is coming from a fan of them.