November 1, 2010

Movie Review: Saw 3D

saw_3d_ver6It doesn't matter of you see a 2D or a 3D screening, the title remains the same: Saw 3D. Well, at least they didn't go with that rumored title of Saw: The Traps Come Alive, that just would have been silly. I was always kind of partial to Saw: The Final Chapter because just like that other horror series to use that header we all know this isn't going to be the last one. It may take a few years and they may end up as direct to video releases, but does anyone think this is it? Especially if this one proves to be a financial success?

Me neither. I will say that it is a step down from part six, which I felt was one of the if not the best sequel and considering the marketing of this as the finale, I expected something a touch more epic than what I got. Oh yeah, and the 3D was nothing to write home about anyway.

I found the movie to be a little underwhelming. The formula has completely taken over the series and this entry feels like more of the same except with a mean streak. Also, for the finale they sure did wait a long time to bring it back to the start. I have to wonder what it would have been like had been made by a director who wanted to make it. I am not saying Kevin Greutert wasn't trying, but there certainly was a little drama to start with.


You see, Kevin Greutert, who did a good job with the sixth film, signed to direct Paranormal Activity 2. This did not sit well with the suits who did not want to see their director going to work on their direct competition and invoked a clause in the contract forcing him onto Saw 3D. This little back and forth did not leave much time between the final decision and the start of production. In short, they studio was already building sets and little time was left for tightening the script. This left me with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Of course, it is not like I have a lot invested in the franchise, but still.

So far as the film goes, it follows the path we are familiar with from prior films. It opens with a small scale trap to give us a quick splash of blood before introducing us to a new set of victims and springing the long term trap. While that is going on we get a blending of police investigation and the soap opera As the Saw Turns.

The center of the big trap is Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery) as a self-improvement guru and Jigsaw survivor.  Or is he? His dark past leads to him being chosen for the big trap, along with those around him, including his wife. He is set along a course that pits him against a series of games involving others with life and death on the line. I know, that sounds generic, but I can't tell you what the traps are, right?


The master of ceremonies is Detective Hoffman (the returning Costas Mandylor), who survived Jill's (Betsy Russell) trap at the end of part six. The dynamic is different this time around as the cops are on to Hoffman and Hoffman will stop at nothing to kill Jill. This leads to more traps (one involving Linkin Park's Chester Bennington) and Hoffman turns into an 80's serial killer ala Jason Voorhees except without the charisma.

I did like how this movie brought everything full circle to where we end where it all began. I like how some some things are answered and how some characters return from prior films for the festivities. I only wish that instead of the Bobby storyline we got a little more Hoffman/Jill/Jigsaw/Dr. Gordon stuff. It feels like they had the Bobby story going at full steam and then realized they had to reveal some stuff quickly and crammed it all in at the end.

Saw 3D seems to lose its way pretty early on. Think what you will of the series, but it has always had one charismatic character who was killed off too early in the series, John Kramer (Tobin Bell). This cancer patient with a god-complex was always the most interesting, no matter how ridiculous his idea to "save" people was, he was always captivating on the screen. This movie sees him have little more than a cameo and instead the primary killer is just that, a sociopath. His willingness to kill sucks a lot of the interest out of the film.


At least it is over for at least a couple of years. I have always enjoyed the Saw films, perhaps more for its willingness to pile on the blood and guts than anything else. You can always be assured that Saw won't skimp on the blood and you will never see a PG-13 Saw. The stories have always left me a little flat. I can appreciate the labyrinth they created, but the characters are bland and not terribly memorable and I never really cared about anyone. There is also the focus on the traps which developed after the original film (you will notice how non-trap centric Saw was).

Perhaps it is time for the franchise to take a little break. Perhaps the time away will make the heart grow fonder. The creative team can take a little time to regroup and find a new direction. Perhaps they can find a way to work in Jigsaw a little more organically, or will you continue to have me believe that Hoffman/Jill/whomever going around doing the bidding of a dead man. And that doesn't even touch on the ridiculous notion that Jigsaw's traps would change anyone the way it has here, but I am willing to accept that.

Bottomline. Blood is good, traps are good, story is bad. Except for the last few moments, this sort of limps along on the formula, riding it to the very end. Fans of the series should enjoy it, but it certainly won't win any convert.

Mildly Recommended.

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