Saw 3D (2010)

After Saw VI, it seemed like the franchise was beginning to turn around. A relatively good installment had been released after two pretty terrible ones, and there was now hope that it had been righted and could potentially have more good chapters. However, it appears that much of the interest in the series had died by this point, as it was far less successful at the box office, only making back six times its budget, instead of the usual ten. The studio decided that this decline was enough to stop the franchise, so Saw 3D is the promised end of the Saw series.

It’s a shame that the long-running movie franchise is going out with more of a whimper than a bang. Saw VI wasn’t bad at all, and worked well at tying up most of the loose ends. This one exists to give us some more gore and completely wrap everything up in as expedient a fashion as possible. It doesn’t really work, and it also winds up introducing new twists which further convolute the overarching storyline. Why couldn’t this one just be a prequel? I’ve been waiting for that for a while now.

This time around, the man being punished is someone who claims to have survived one of Jigsaw’s puzzles before. Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) has been selling a book that details the events that took place when he was captured by Jigsaw. We never witnessed this. Want to know why? It never happened. Given how sprawling the series is, one would assume we’d have already seen pretty much everyone who was put through the “games.” Bobby is a fake, and now he’s going to get punished for lying to the world.

Of course, we know that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, appearing in a couple, but not many, flashbacks) is long dead. He has been since the end of the third film. Taking his place has been Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who finally came into his own in the last film. Hoffman in this one has vowed revenge on Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), after she tried to kill him in the last film. Meanwhile, there’s a new detective, Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), who is trying to bring Hoffman to justice.

You can see how there’s a lot going on. It’s too much. Too many new elements are introduced, and it doesn’t allow the film to wrap everything up neatly and with enough time for closure. There are so many loose ends that need to be tied up — six movies worth, as a matter of fact — and introducing new ones while trying to close all the open doors is just far too challenging a task for the filmmakers. It’s not fair. Prior to Saw VI‘s “poor” box office returns, two more sequels were planned. They were merged into one and the result is a terrible mess.

In addition to the story being a complete train wreck, the actual film used to tell it is almost unwatchable. There’s nothing enjoyable this time around, and most of the traps and puzzles exist for the sole purpose of being gory. The film returns to the roots of the fourth and fifth installments, I suppose, except that this one is even worse than them because of how poor the story is.

The only plus, I suppose, is the inclusion of a character from the first film, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). Remember him? If you don’t, he was the one who cut off his own foot in hopes of escaping Jigsaw’s trap. He only gets a few scenes, and his appearance adds even more stupidity and confusion to an already muddled film, but I did like seeing a familiar face. It was welcome, especially because many of these new characters are just so awful. Dr. Gordon wasn’t great, but his character was written better in one movie than some of the other ones have in four.

Save for the characters who have already been established — and “established” in this case means “they have been in earlier movies” because the only character who has any sense of depth and is still alive is Hoffman — there isn’t a single memorable person in this movie. The performances are universally poor, the characters aren’t written well at all (they aren’t coming back for an eighth film, anyway), and I can’t say I cared about anyone being put through the Jigsaw traps. It just didn’t matter anymore.

Even though three of the last four films in the Saw franchise have been really bad, I still think the series, on the whole, has been a success. The first film did something different, the second and third ones expanded upon that, while the sixth was almost a return to form. It goes to show that when the passion is there, and when the writers think up some clever traps, such a simple concept can be successful for a long time. It’s only with laziness and convolution that the Saw movies started their sharp decline in quality.

After seven films, the Saw series has come to an end. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been promised. I hope that’s true. It’s impossible to deny that three of the last four films have been terrible, and that’s just not a good ratio of success. This might just be the worst film of the franchise thus far, and while it probably could have been finished after the sixth film, at least it’s done now. Saw 3D is a whimper in the overall scheme of things, and I recommend seeing it only if you are someone who needs to see every film in a series that you start.

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