SAW 3D Review
Written by: FutureSlash
As a truly die-hard SAW fan, I never thought I'd see the day when I genuinely felt like it was time to give the franchise a rest. Even when many fans turned on the series after the much (and unfairly) maligned SAW V, I was pleased and excited to see where the story would go next. So it's a bit of a surprise to me that I left the theater after the latest installment thinking maybe, just maybe, one of my favorite horror series had finally run out of steam.
Don't get me wrong... there are several of those great wince-inducing moments in SAW 3D that have characterized this series since the very first entry. Indeed, there are traps involving a fish hook and a car on jack stands that rank among the franchise's most satisfying and stomach-churning "torture porn" set pieces. But these admittedly dead-on scenes are just barely enough - even in crisp, splatter-rich 3D - to sustain a supposedly final entry almost entirely bereft of surprises or compelling twists.
SAW 3D follows two parallel story arcs - one of a Jigsaw survivor who isn't who he claims tested by a series of traps holding his friends and loved ones, the other of a police detective trying to protect Jill Tuck from the vengeful Hoffman. While both arcs have their moments, neither really delivers fully on its dramatic potential. It seems that every truly diabolical trap depicted in the former storyline is followed almost immediately by one that is decidedly less than impressive, and the whole thread ends rather abruptly, with no great revelation or twist to give it any lasting impact on the viewer. By contrast, the big reveal in the Jill-Hoffman plotline is telegraphed by a country mile, and an opportunity to send the series out with a huge bang is wasted in a less than spectacular final scene.
The financially motivated decision to condense planned plot elements for three more proposed SAW films into a single 3D finale really hurts this movie. A couple of scenes involving major traps feel as though they were forced into the story with a crowbar, just because the filmmakers felt they were too cool to abandon to development hell for all eternity. The big climactic revelation would have been SO much more effective had the filmmakers had one or two more entries in which to foreshadow it. Instead, the clues are dropped right in the audiences' laps like hot coals, so that even the least observant viewer will be able to predict the ending less than a third of the way in.
Worst of all, pre-release promises that Jigsaw's grander scheme would finally be unveiled go largely unfulfilled, as the events of SAW 3D are more repetition than revelation. Jigsaw's primary victim here is no more significant to the series or deserving of testing than any of the protagonists of the previous six films have been, and no bigger philosophical theme or underlying motive for the entire bloody spree comes to light before the end credits roll. In short, SAW 3D isn't a larger game at all. It's just another round of the exact same one we've been playing for the last seven years.
Indeed, at times I found myself thinking, "Didn't I just see this last year?" as I watched Sean Patrick Flannery move from one test to the next or Costas Mandylor cleverly evade his pursuers and leave a trail of bloody corpses in his wake. With no surprise cameos or genuinely unexpected reversals to distinguish this entry, I couldn't help but think that director Kevin Greutert's took his own gripes about having to make the same movie twice to heart and tried to exactly duplicate much of what worked in SAW 6 while throwing a few things at the camera for the sake of the 3D.
Two winning aspects of the previous entry that Greutert failed to include were decent dialogue and adequate screen time for Tobin Bell. With so much to tie up in one 90 minute movie, Jigsaw himself is reduced to nothing more than a brief cameo to justify the involvement of a couple characters in the drama, and doesn't get a single truly memorable scene throughout. It's an insulting, inglorious end for the true star of this series, an even more egregious slight to both actor and character than New Line handed Kane Hodder's Jason in JASON GOES TO HELL. Lionsgate take note - even the most die-hard fan of Parts 4-6 would have preferred to see Hoffman and Jill killed off in the opening five minutes and have the rest of the movie focus on Jigsaw's last game (complete with lots of juicy flashbacks) than spend most of the final hour and a half of this franchise wishing its real star would show up and do or say something worthy of his considerable screen presence.
On the plus side, the 3D's decent, the best traps are very good, we get one familiar and quite welcome face from the past back, we finally get to see one of Jigsaw's most infamous traps sprung on-camera, and there's (just barely) enough closure that this current series could actually end here, allowing the franchise to rest for a few years before the inevitable reboot.
Those pluses don't outweigh the numerous minuses (which also include some subpar performances, a few maddeningly unresolved plot threads, and no post-credits final scene), but they're enough to earn the movie 6 out of 10 stars from this loyal SAW fan. I'll watch it again. I'll own it. Over time, I'll come to love it in the same "warts and all" way I love THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, or the aforementioned JASON GOES TO HELL, or the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake. No matter how forgiving or fond of SAW 3D I become, however, I'll never be able to forget how it brought down the curtain on one of my all-time favorite horror franchises with more of a whimper than a bang, how it failed to deliver a final twist worthy of the series, or how it relegated one of the few true modern horror icons to bit player status in what should have been his crowning moment.
For the first time in seven years, I feel like the game truly is over, and I'm not altogether certain that we won.