The Saw franchise explodes into audience’s laps in this 3-Dimensionalized sequel that delivers on the chunky bloody bits as it clumsily tries to pound nails into the series’ coffin (that is, until the inevitable sequel/reboot). One of the staples of the series is to continually overcomplicate the now labyrinthine plight of serial killer/morality teacher Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), yet here, the plotting is surprisingly straightforward. Unfortunately for the film, the events that take place seem so far-removed from Jigsaw’s original scheme that it generates an almost “why bother?” reaction. Thankfully for the hoards of plot-twist admirers out there, Saw 3D still has enough surprises waiting at the very end to fill that void, even if they’re just as ludicrous as the twists in the six films leading up to this.
For the seventh entry, gruesome dramatics once again surround Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), the former cop-turned-heir to the long-dead killer’s throne, who was last seen disfigured after Jigsaw’s wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), unsuccessfully tried to spring a trap on him. The finale of the surprisingly fun (and politically topical) previous entry promised a battle of evil wits between Hoffman and Jill, yet that’s not quite what is delivered here. Instead, Hoffman goes back to work -- this time targeting Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery), a Jigsaw survivor whose fraudulent story of escaping the killer gets him targeted for a grisly lesson in righteousness. In the meantime, Jill turns herself in to the cops and basically waits in a jail cell until Hoffman gets around to taking revenge.
Something interesting that comes to mind is just how Hoffman never really got the traps right in the first place. While Jigsaw had a grander purpose -- to change the world one torturous device at a time -- Hoffman has been sloppy and incredibly random since he took on the mantle. This further separates the action from everything else that has come before, though for a second, it seems as if Saw 3D might actually have something to say about the media and the public’s fascination with the macabre. One of the early kills is actually the first trap laid out in public -- on a public street (a first for the franchise). Add this on top of the movie’s marketing, which in one poster showed a giant statue of Tobin Bell being built in an industrial city, and that certainly points to the public finally being confronted -- and possibly moved -- by Jigsaw’s plan. So is this how Saw 3D pans out? Good lord, no.
What you do get is blood -- with lots of it peppering a flimsy plot in which Hoffman tortures the faux-survivor. In the midst of this, audiences are finally treated to a return of Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes), one of the only characters who outlasted the first film. His role is pivotal in connecting this entry with the others, which it desperately needs. The movie cannot be faulted for delivering each and every one of its bravura 3D gore gags. In fact, the picture nearly derails when one trap in particular falls far short of its inspired brethren. Indeed, the pic loses steam halfway through, but thankfully gains it back in the third act. Style-wise, returning director Kevin Greutert keeps the frenzied action somewhat muffled until late in the picture, when the quick-cut editing style starts sullying up the otherwise admirable presentation (the production used 3D cameras instead of converting it in post, which has yielded terrible results).
So, is this the end for Saw? Honestly, it’s the highest-grossing horror franchise in history, and frankly, this isn’t the best way to leave things off. On the positive side, it’s not nearly as grueling an experience as some of those middle sequels. The traps are even more outlandish and seemingly exist purely for in-your-face gags. At the very least, its audience will appreciate the abundance of the red stuff. For now, the Saw franchise remains ever-serious, yet they’re continually learning that torture porn can actually be enjoyable if infused with just the right amount of absurdity. Let’s hope the producers keep that in mind whenever the series is let loose again.
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