Who’s In It: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Cary Elwes, Betsy Russell, Chad Donella, Gina Holden, Laurence Anthony, Chester Bennington
The Basics: Torture hobbyist Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is still dead; it’s the franchise that just won’t die. This seventh and allegedly final installment of the Saw series picks up hot on the heels of Saw VI, with Jigsaw protégé Det. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) patching himself up after a nasty run-in with a Reverse Bear-Trap. As Hoffman goes after his new nemesis, Jigsaw’s widow Jill (Betsy Russell), self-help author and Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) finds himself the target of a brand-new game and a new intrepid cop (Chad Donella) sets out to stop the dastardly schemes once and for all.
What’s The Deal: In the old days, movies of a certain caliber -- most often horror sequels -- would go straight to video, the only place shabby cash-ins could possibly find an audience. But after five installments that broke the $100 million mark (and a sixth that precipitously dropped off at the box office, leading filmmakers to close out the series here at seven) this franchise of diminishing returns feels more deserving of a direct-to-DVD release than a theatrical send-off. Incomprehensible story, cheesy dialogue, poor execution, cheap production value – Saw 3D hits for the cycle of bad filmmaking. What’s worse, the traps, poetic mechanical contraptions at best elsewhere in the series, aren’t that memorable, much less clever. The gore flows in rivers of bloody flesh, to be sure, and it’s just as excruciating to watch these humans suffer through these painful self-inflicted tests as it was with their predecessors in past Saw flicks. But at its height, the franchise earned its fan following by telling stories with moral purpose and complexity; in its seventh and hopefully final screen outing, Jigsaw’s legacy has become muddled, as disposable as the umpteenth severed appendage left to rot on the bathroom floor.
Why Hardcore Fans Might Enjoy Watching Saw 3D Before They Realize They’ve Been Had: It gives the Saw faithful plenty of callbacks to notice, from methods to characters to full-on flashbacks of scenes seen in previous films. Scribes Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have attempted to bring the franchise full circle in some ways, even if only through superficial signposts and familiar set-ups rather than anything of actual value. But certain unexplained elements leave more than a few logical voids in the thin patchwork that is Saw 3D’s twist-filled plot; what’s more, there’s no satisfying conclusion given the fact that Jigsaw’s legacy is to teach and not just to punish. To that end the master puppeteer has been let down not only by his wayward protégés, but also by the filmmakers tasked with bringing his story to a close.
Random Through Line That Struck Me While Watching Saw 3D: The filmmakers have inadvertently come to realize that the ‘90s are the new ‘80s and have thrown three of my favorite hunky actors from the decade into their film. There’s the Young Indiana Jones himself, Sean Patrick Flanery. Picket Fences’ dreamy deputy, Costas Mandylor. And Cary Elwes, best known for 1987’s The Princess Bride but who arguably reached the height of his fame in ‘90s-era pics like Days of Thunder, Hot Shots!, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and The Crush. Yes, the Saw folks have realized my love for these three actors and have now permanently perverted said love for all of eternity by making me watch them insert meat hooks into their pecs and purposely disfigure themselves. You win this one, guys that made Saw 3D.
And About the 3-D: It’s gimmicky but not terribly impressive, and the occasional extra sharp object poking out of the screen into your face doesn’t justify a 3-D ticket price. (Some of the things that fly out of the screen: blood, guts, self-administered sutures, buzz saws, the dude from Linkin Park.) After a while you might even forget the movie’s in 3-D, at least until director Kevin Greutert remembers to shove an electric saw or sharp pokey metal prong into your eyeballs. See it in 2-D and the picture will be slightly brighter – the better to watch the cast chew scenery in their soap opera-esque sets and to see every bit of face flesh and blood explode all over the place.