Finally, the saga of Jigsaw comes full circle and the Saw franchise comes to an end. Or does it? Seriously folks, can we really trust horror movie franchises to end? Just take a gander at Jason, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers... they won't die.I predict that there will be more Saw movies - maybe not right away, but in the very foreseeable future - and lots of them.
But let's just go with the assumption that Saw 3D is really the end-all episode. If that's the case, it patches all the right holes and at a relentless pace. But is it completely satisfying? Yes and no. Saw 3D is the series' seventh chapter, helmed by Saw VI director Kevin Greutert. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton also returned to pen the script, which details the never-ending exploits of long-dead serial killer Jigsaw and the people who continue to suffer from his gruesome morality lessons. Following the style and themes of the franchise, three sub-plots are set up immediately to intertwine throughout.
Taking on racism and love triangles, the flick's main focus is on Bobby Dragen (Sean Patrick Flanery), who has written a best-selling book about outwitting the demented serial killer. He also runs support groups for fellow Jigsaw survivors, despite the fact that his own tale is fictional. Therein lies the rub, and Dragen is next to fall prey to the cat-and-mouse game of Jigsaw's "live or die" traps of twisted morality. He is sent on the well-worn race against time, trying to save a series of people from diabolical flesh-rendering machines by inflicting pain on himself, and he is pretty lame at it.
Meanwhile, Jigsaw's evil accomplice, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), continues the warped genius' legacy, pursuing vendettas against Jigsaw's widow (Betsy Russell) and apparently most of the police department. Most of the previous installments featured a diverse set of victims, but here Saw 3D concentrates on Dragen's efforts to save his wife with the grisly games threatening only his unfortunate associates. The most intriguing part is that Cary Elwes is back as Dr. Gordon from the original Saw, which opens some interesting narrative options.
Saw 3D is heavy handed to the hilt, non-stop and relentless, the ever-present music creeping up around every corner. The success of the Saw franchise always rests on its Grand Guignol-inspired traps, and they don't skimp on the gore. Despite a scene right out of A Man Called Horse (a grueling hanging by hooks through the pectoral muscles) and taking a huge page from Italian Giallo master Lucio Fulci (The Beyond, Zombie and Cat in the Brain), the 3D lacks spunk. Sure, some of it is supreme gross-out material, but when a three-prong eye/mouth gouger comes at you, it could have been more squirm inducing. Personally, I needed more spewing blood, grisly guts and bone matter hurled at my head.
Even so, the main point has always been the ethics behind the tortures. However, in this version we lose some of the moralizing in favor of a straight serial killer formula. Saw must save on acting bills because it never features an A-list star, and thankfully that works in its favor. Of course Tobin Bell (Jigsaw) returns in a flashback to steal any acting accolades. The charismatic Bell supplies more electricity in a few minutes of friendly yet intense conversation than all of the ghastly occurrences combined. Ever since his character died in Saw 3, he's been reduced to appearing in brief flashbacks that only remind us of what we're missing. It seems a weird move that the creators killed off their evil mastermind villain so early in the series. Mandylor's Hoffman is still an extremely bland stand-in, creepy facial scar notwithstanding.
Overall, this well-paced and edited installment brings everything to a satisfying climactic crescendo, thanks to Greutert's savvy and the ominous music from composer Charlie Clouser, which gurgles in the background, swirling up to assault our eardrums while the viscera hits our 3D glasses. Despite the fact that some loose ends are left hanging, leaving room to ponder, this essentially could be the last one. Make your choice. Saw... live or die?
Starring Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell, Costas
Mandylor, Carey Elwes, Sean Patrick
Flanery. Directed by Kevin Greutert