All film franchises will come to an end eventually, especially those based upon finite fantasy books, even if some don't have a complete and satisfying ending. Who would have imagined that Saw, a small production in 2004 written by Leigh Whannell and James Wan who also picked up directing duties, would turn out to be such a Halloween hit that it became THE film to spend subsequent Halloweens with, making one of the tough breakthroughs in creating a resilient cinematic horror icon with Jigsaw, propelling its actor Tobin Bell to fame and cultivating a fan base as well.
Over the years the film got passed on to filmmakers willing to bring the franchise forward when the original creative duo released their reins on the film, and directors and writers jumped on it to varying degree of successes, each adding their own imprint on the franchise, to what it is now - there is a new Jigsaw, but the handing over of that responsibility wasn't as smooth as what was thought out to be, plus some added twists and turns that each film brought to the table that to some may turn out to be a tad ridiculous since it involved some major predictions and forecasting that is hard to reconcile if narrative convenience isn't part of the overall plan.
With 3D finding its way to the big screen these days with almost a guarantee of increased box office takings, it's no surprise that the latest and I presume final Saw installment would go this route for its last hurrah. After all, it does seem that horror flicks provide for plenty of ingredients to exploit the format in a cheesy manner, though the budget here meant less things got to be thrown on screen toward you. Production values are dumbed down a little, and I almost let out a chuckle when the first obligatory trap to show off the 3D format, turned out to be nothing more than one, yes one, piece of intestine being hurled / dropped toward the screen during a disemboweling scene, as will other objects in limited fashion as the story wore on.
Like the films that went before it, this Saw installment has its cast made up of a blast from the past. The last time I saw Sean Patrick Flanery on a regular basis was many years ago when the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was the rage with his role as the titular character made famous by Harrison Ford. Here he carries the film as the central character in a plot about a self help motivational speaker Bobby Dagen who propels to fame, purporting to be one of the many survivors of a Jigsaw trap, preaching about living a new lease of life upon his sacrifice to break free. Needless to say when you cry wolf, you'll cry for real when the wolf puts you on its radar.
As with most Saw plots, we follow the protagonist n his quest to free people from the Jigsaw traps, which very often is to no avail because of hesitation, lack of courage, fear of sacrificing, running out of time, or a combination of those as the Jigsaw traps were designed to exorcise some of such demons and become that perverse moral educational piece. While crime and punishment Jigsaw style got meted out sticking to established rules, the self-execution traps by the new Jigsaws in the later part of the franchise somehow had lost the plot, and although still toeing the line with developments to their respective characters in not respecting the thought process and rational behind the gruesome punishment, the main bite in overcoming these traps become non existent. Some perennial trap favourites do get some additional mileage in this film as well - see if you can guess which one!
On the side of the law, we follow Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella) in the footsteps of cops before played by Danny Glover, Dina Meyer, Donnie Wahlberg, Scott Patterson, Mike Realba and Athena Karkanis in pursuit of the serial killer, only to find themselves almost always coming up short. If there's a fault to this film, it is the persistence to the formula that has gotten stale, with Saw 3D being nothing more than just an incremental narrative effort in giving the audience more of the same, only with a different looking cast.
What continues to work is the sophistication of the traps involved to produce blood and gore in copious amounts, as they get slightly elaborate with each turn that you wonder about the creative engineering involved that does stretch the imagination of how it's all being wired up by a single person. Some scenes were obligatory and didn't fit in with the grain of the film, two of which stood out like a sore thumb were the opening gig which was set in public (just how can one wire that up without suspicion is a great mystery) which highlighted the attitudes of a Youtube generation, and the one set in a garage which put 4 persons under a minute's threat in win-all-die-all fashion.
While some may find issue with how everything managed to get looped back to the first film with the presence of Cay Elwes amongst the ensemble, I thought it was pretty decent in closing a chapter to a franchise in somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion to how everything is treated so far with flashbacks providing real meat to the story, a technique employed to extend the longevity of Tobin Bell's screen presence. Some questions raised in the last two films when it tangent off under new management got addressed here, and I found it acceptable if I'm willing to put aside plot convenience.
It may have taken a while to finally get this here on our shores, but for fans of the franchise there's likely to be no stopping you to watch how it all comes to a full circle with all its gory details intact and without a detectable cut. Non fans will be better off catching up with the previous films should there be any attempt to watch this, otherwise it'll turn out to be nothing more than an exploitative film that raises too many questions when the big reveals roll along.
You can click on these links to read my reviews of Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V and Saw VI.