If you think about it, the annual batch of torture porn (i.e., the Saw franchise) is the most harmless aspect of Halloween; I mean, there’s poisoned candy, pedophiles galore, and just general creepiness (and I don’t mean that in the jolly ol’ fun way, more like forty-year old fathers in bikinis weird — I’ve seen it) to reckon with. On top of that, seasoned killjoys such as myself are encouraged, nay obligated, to share our wealth of cavity-causing loot. Yeah, the Saw series doesn’t look so dangerous now . . .
But regardless of the critical distain from pompous film critics (guilty), there are still those who trek to their local cinema each year for their dose of the increasingly incoherent story of the Jigsaw killer (guilty as charged). Originally penned by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, the series ultimately expanded into the hands of a plethora of other screenwriters, including Darren Lynn Bousman (co-wrote Saw II with Whannell), Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (Saw IV), as well as a smorgasbord of replacement directors (all of which who worked on production on earlier films) such as Bousman (who directed Saw II, III, and IV), David Hackl (Saw V), and most famously, Kevin Greutert, who not only had the “honor” of directing the sixth film in the series, but also the “pleasure” of closing the series with its seventh and reportedly final installment, Saw 3D.
Saw 3D was made on the one principle which answers this question: What’s better than watching some scumbag lose a liter of blood? Make it seem like the blood splatters onto the audience, of course. It’s commendable that the crew actually used SI-3D cameras in contrast to shooting with regular equipment and then transferring data into a conventional 3D format for that added gimmick (and revenue-per-ticket), which usually results in a rather subpar final product. However, Saw 3D is on another level of horrible and no amount of flying body parts can save it from being a horribly written, terribly acted, and a generally poorly executed mess of a horror film.
It continues somewhere in the insolvable labyrinth of a mythology with one of the series’ trademark characters, Doctor Gordon (Cary Elwes), crawling from the scene of a previous game which left him without a foot. Luckily, the doctor finds a steaming pipe which he uses to cauterize his wound. From there on out, the film somehow transitions to an over-the-top trap which sets two young men sitting in front of a buzz saw, while their mutual lover (basically means that she’s cheating on the both of ’em) Dina, remains suspended above. As always, Billy the puppet rolls out from God-knows-where and tells the men that they have an important choice to make: Either kill each other or let Dina die. But that’s not it, in fact, for the first time in the series’ history, the trap takes place outdoors, in a storefront window in some crowded shopping area. Perhaps some sort of social commentary, the curious onlookers whip out their phones and start recording, and as always, the authorities don’t make it until it’s too late. Usually I’d try to analyze a scene like this, but I was too intrigued by the film’s special effects — namely, the blood and intestines, which literally look like ketchup and sausages.
On the bright side, at least the lighting crew finally found their way on the set. Having seen all of the past films in the franchise, I must say, that they were darker than a dirty asshole. On the other hand, all of that light made it easier to see Costas Mandylor’s grease. Yes, Mr. “Stoicson” Mandylor returns as Hoffman, the heir to Jigsaw’s reign, who just happens to have the time to tinker with toys and record audio-tapes, while simultaneously running from the cops and spying on them. But the man sure does get the job done.
Just ask Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery — one of the Boondock Saints, another movie I hated), who purports to be a survivor of one of Jigsaw’s games, and who uses his experiences to write a best-selling book. But Bobby isn’t the only survivor, in fact, Jigsaw has screwed over so many people that there are actual support groups for this sort of thing — ah, society, you are a sick motherfucker. But all that goes to shit when he wakes up to find himself into another one of Jigsaw’s traps, because you guessed it . . . he lied about the whole thing. Interestingly enough, I actually found Bobby to be borderline interesting and I feel that if the entire series took this almost playful approach, instead of being so super-serious all of the time, it would have been a decent film series. Maybe.
Another new character is Gibson (Chad Donella), a cop who uses lines such as, “She’s crazier than a sack full of cats,” which pretty much points out how fleshed out his character is. But when push comes to shove, Donella sure screws up big-time. His performance is single-handedly one of the worst in the series, and that’s saying a lot.
The writing is what really shits on Saw 3D though, which makes me believe that Melton and Dunstan, who try to make a triumphant return to the series, were on some sort of psychotropic drug while writing the script. Besides from the overall idiocy of the characters, the duo manage to include sequences such as when Gibson takes about ten minutes to find one of Hoffman’s hideouts, another two minutes to get there, and then ultimately spends three seconds in the aforementioned lair before coming to the conclusion that he made a mistake — just like that, let me paraphrase his line: “Whoops, I fucked up.”
But hey, at least the traps are interesting, well they were interesting — half a decade ago. Besides from the blood looking like America’s favorite condiment and a human’s insides resembling a German delicacy, the traps are just plain boring. And a lot of the scenes that are meant to be tense just come off as uninteresting and anti-climatic — all in thanks to the script’s inability to engage the audience via its characters.
Oh well, it does come full circle, and the ending does leave enough space for a sequel for those who are crying over the “stunning” finale of their beloved film series. I for one am happy, for now I can finally stop being such a masochist.