Hyped up for its 3D effects and for the fact that it is the final instalment (well, we’ll see about that in time) of, arguably, the most popular 21st century horror franchise, Saw 3D has a surprising amount to live up to for the seventh entry in a series that many thought had outstayed it’s welcome after the first three or four films. What’s more surprising is that it actually manages to deliver just what fans will want from a grand finale.
Following on immediately from the events of Saw VI (a sequel that surprised many, including myself, by being one of the best in the series after the low point that was Saw V), this time around we get an endgame involving someone who has made money from claiming to be a survivor of one of Jigsaw’s fiendish traps. We also get Jill (Jigsaw’s widow) and a killer apprentice trying to outwit one another while the final game plays out. I’m being deliberately vague here and that may annoy some people but I like to remain as spoiler-free as possible to allow newcomers the chance to catch up with all of the preceding movies before giving this one a try (if they are ever convinced to give their time to it).
The story is pretty good, in that it ties things up very nicely and plays out with just as much trickiness and sleight of hand as previous entries. The writers of these movies are never going to win any accolades for the dialogue but they do get people from A to B and pace things perfectly. In fact, with 11 traps scattered throughout proceedings (according to the blurbs I have read – sadly, I was not counting as I watched the movie) it moves at an even brisker pace than any of the other films. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan also wrote the previous three movies and it’s nice to see here that they did actually have some good ideas they were saving for the last stretch.
Director Kevin Greutert builds on his good work directing Saw VI and pretty much checks off every box en route for what fans will want from this 3D experience. This is not going to win over fans of Kurosawa but it’s damn sure going to leave a smile on the faces of those rewarding themselves for sitting through all of the previous six movies (people like myself, in other words).
Acting has never been a strong point of these movies but there’s, once again, some decent turns here and there. Costas Mandylor is better here than he has been in the other films, Betsy Russell is okay, Chad Donella does alright but has a character who is saddled with making a number of poor decisions. The best performance comes from Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby, survivor and minor celebrity who ends up being tested in ways he could never have even begun to imagine, even if it would help to sell more copies of his best-selling book. With support from Gina Holden, more flashbacks including Tobin Bell and even a return for Cary Elwes this ends up being better than most in the acting department.
Last, but by no means least, we have the spectacle and the commentary of the movie. Yes, I said commentary. The fact that the first major trap is set in a transparent box in the middle of a daytime crowd brilliantly sums up just what these movies provide. You don’t want to look but you have to, you don’t want to judge people (especially with such harsh penalties being dished out) but you do, you don’t want to root for a bad person but these films get you on their side. This is moral retribution made palatable for the viewing masses. Put a coating of 3D on things and you have something that you often want to look away from but find yourself also wanting to enjoy for every spiky, dangerous, sharp-edged, visceral, wince-inducing moment. Eye-popping stuff. Sometimes literally.
DIRECTOR: KEVIN GREUTERT
STARS: TOBIN BELL, COSTAS MANDYLOR, BETSY RUSSELL, SEAN PATRICK FLANERY, CARY ELWES, CHAD DONELLA, GINA HOLDEN
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX