Saw 3D (2010)

Two years ago I wanted to review the new Saw movie for The Rotten Tomatoes Show. Having not seen the most recent installments of the series, I marathoned the first five films and then dragged myself to the theater to see the sixth. When I was finished that day, I had witnessed a series that consistently got worse with each subsequent sequel. The following year, I consciously ignored the release of the purportedly final Saw. But now it’s available free on Netflix, and I figured that I might as well see the way the series ended.

Wrapping up the now-sprawling mythos of these movies would be no short order. After the innovative original and the first two subpar-but-not-wholly-inexcusable sequels, the filmmakers killed off Jigsaw and started f0llowing Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who managed to be the most unfulfilling and bland replacement a horror series has ever seen. We’ve followed this cardboard oaf around for three films, and his fate is the focus of the ultimate entry as well. The parallel victim story follows Bobby Dagin (Sean Patrick Flanery), a man whose fabricated Jigsaw-survival story has made him a best-selling author. Flanery has to go through and save a bunch of his acquaintances by playing Hoffman’s games. It’s the exact same set-up that we saw in the 3rd, 4th, and to some degree 6th film in the series, and its familiarity is stifling. Worse off, the filmmakers try to include some kind of “see no evilhear no evilspeak no evil” theme, but it’s too underdeveloped to be clever in any way.

On Hoffman’s trail is the latest one-film protagonist, Detective Matt Gibson. Actor Chad Donella fits in with the rest of the cast since he’s hammy and awful. Detective Gibson fits in with the rest of the characters because he’s entirely unremarkable. The film eventually tires of him, lazily gunning him down with an automated turret early on in the third act. Under Gibson’s protection was Jill Tuck, Jigsaw’s ex-wife who has popped up in every film since the fourth. Her role is much more central to Saw 3D, which is both a good and bad thing. Good because Betsy Russell has obviously made some kind of deal with Time – at 47 years old, she is still every bit as toned and attractive as a 20-somethings woman; bad because she’s weak as both a character and an actor. But she did make me laugh whenever she ran, so that’s something.

Being part of the series that helped establish the phrase “torture porn”, Saw 3D has all the gore you’d expect it to. The opening scene features flying intestine, another has Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington getting the skin ripped off his back, and in one unnerving scene, a fish hook has to be yanked out of a person’s stomach through their throat. Just typing that disgusts me. These gruesome acts are filmed in the usual unforgiving close up. But you already knew that this would be the case, it’s a damn Saw movie.

As the film begins to wrap up, its flaws appear more and more egregious. Logic is trampled by the need for more gore. One of the last tests that Dagin has to endure is unlocking a door using a combination etched into his molars. Nevermind the complete inanity of how one could have chiseled numbers with such precision in the back of this man’s mouth – anything so long as the end result is someone pulling their own teeth out with a wrench! The film’s final twist is both predictable and disappointing. Spoiler alert, turns out that Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), the guy who cut his foot off in the first film, has been helping Jigsaw this whole time also (because Amanda and Hoffman’s retcons weren’t enough, apparently). This whimper is the way that Saw chooses to die. It’s something it really should have done four movies ago.

The first Saw was a great horror movie. Sure it was flawed, but it was original and bold. As the derivatives kept coming, the series kept dulling itself. Sure it maintained an unhealthy level of gore, but it traded its sincere originality for imitation intelligence, with convoluted storylines in place of actually smart twists. Nothing embodies this drastic decline better than Mandylor as Hoffman. As he lumbers around the police station, stabbing person after person in the exact same way, it becomes shocking how this movie manages to be even worse than its precursors. There’s really no way that Saw 3D couldn’t be the last film in the series, because with it, the devolution of the series is finally complete.

Final Rating: 1/10

–James A. Janisse

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