Saw 3D (2010)

OCTOBER 27, 2010


While we can't be for sure until the box office receipts are counted and some time has gone by, Saw 3D is supposedly the final chapter in the series, which is the first franchise to ever deliver a record 7 movies in 7 years (not counting pornos, I guess). But more importantly, it never really drastically altered its MO the way other series did. No supernatural nonsense, no "new directions", no "well let's ignore the last couple movies" like other franchises - while they may not agree with some of the storytelling choices, I think James Wan and/or Leigh Whannell can turn on any of the recent Saw sequels (they haven't been involved since Saw III) and recognize it as part of their series.

Of course, on the other hand, that means that this, the 7th and "final" film, is pretty much a fans-only affair. I think Saw VI works as a stand-alone film beyond some minor references and revelations that won't mean a goddamn thing to a newcomer (i.e. Amanda was responsible for Cecil's drug-fueled outburst that killed John and Jill's unborn son), but even though 3D (why did they have to drop the Roman numerals? I loved that they never dipped into subtitle territory!) follows a similar structure as its immediate predecessor, and much effort has been made to keep it newcomer-friendly, the new story isn't really all that compelling, and everything else is largely concerned with wrapping up the power struggle between Hoffman and Jill.


And even their battle isn't really all that jaw-dropping; it's not until the final reel that it kicks into high gear, with Hoffman going on a crazy killing spree trying to reach Jill (think The Terminator). For the bulk of the film, Jill is just sitting in a police cell (under protection) while Hoffman leaves cryptic clues for Gibson, an IA officer that he has an old grudge with. Since it's the final film, I would have liked to have spent more time with old "friends" instead of new folks, especially when after six films my mind has grown accustomed to trying to figure out how they fit into the big puzzle or relate to the film's other story (something that also sunk Saw V for me) only to discover that this time, they really don't. Gibson has no big reveal or past association with anyone in the other story - he's just a cop that inadvertently helps Hoffman get where he needs to be. Well screw him then! I want more mythology rewriting! Hell, even Tobin barely appears this time around, it's the least amount of screen-time he's has since Saw 1 (unless you count his motionless body on the floor in 1 as "screen-time", then it's the least ever).

The "traps/game" story largely concerns Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a survivor of Jigsaw who is being truly tested after being kidnapped after a promotional appearance for his book, which details how he survived and how it changed his life. Like Jeff from III or William from VI, his game often requires him to hurt himself to prevent the trapped person from dying, a method that usually fails. But the similarities to those superior films renders a lot of this stuff sort of dull, because his test is more about Jigsaw getting back at him rather than something that might improve his life, and thus less compelling. Jeff and William were flawed individuals - Bobby's just a spineless jerk.

Luckily, the traps are crazy awesome in this one, and Kevin Greutert and co apparently have been watching some Fulci films for inspiration. The auto shop trap seen in the trailers (featuring Chester from Linkin Park and the super hot Gabby West from Scream Queens) offers some of the most gonzo awesome kills in the series' history, and the "be quiet" trap is impressively unique but also something that Argento would applaud (and curse himself for not doing it first). It also offers some of the more cringe-worthy self-mutilation "requirements"; even I had to look away at one point, as a character does something that finally justifies the suggestions of the Saw III poster.

It also brings some humor to the series, which has been largely absent for a while now. Gibson in particular is a delight, and Tobin's first scene has a wonderfully dry opening when he has to spell his name (he's at one of Dagen's book signings - it's a flashback, obviously). And due to the 3D aspect, the kills themselves are much less icky (save for the self mutilations) and more into over-the-top territory, which means you can laugh and cheer instead of going "ewwww..."

Ah yes, the 3D. I'm sort of on the fence. It's technically great - this movie opens things up a bit (an outside trap, several exterior shots) and even the traps themselves are larger, so if any of the movies HAD to be in 3D, it would be this one. And it was SHOT in 3D (not a convert) so it automatically looks better than most of what we're seeing. But I'm not sure it's the right fit for this particular franchise - it felt sort of weird to have characters throwing things at you, as if they were sort of having fun too. Not that I always want a grim-fest, but it feels a bit campy at times. You may disagree, but I've always felt the series is much more intelligent than its given credit for, however this stuff gives it a slightly goofy tone, like a Final Destination movie more than Saw one.

The next paragraph contains a MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILER! DO NOT READ if don't want the ending partially spoiled, OR if you haven't been following the film's production through the websites or what have you!

Of course, the big question is: How does Dr. Gordon fit into the film, and how much? Sadly, he's only in three scenes (four if you count a new ret-con montage), and oddly I wish it was only the one. He plays a big part in the ending, but by that point you KNOW he does because his presence has been so minimal, and you know they wouldn't have bothered to bring Cary Elwes back just to show that he survived (scene #1) and doesn't think much of Dagen (scene #2). Thus, for the first time ever, I called the twist at the end, which kind of bums me out. And his part prevents what could have been an amazing fight between Jill and Hoffman, who find themselves in what seems to be the Jigsaw evidence room at the police station. How awesome would it have been to see them go at it using a bunch of John's old toys? Instead, one just takes care of the other rather quickly, and then gets their own comeuppance at the hands of our returning friend. It's a pretty awesome ending, but it's not as grand as I had initially hoped - I was sort of hoping for a Freddy vs Jason style epic (gory) battle between the two.

However, one thing is certain - Marcus, Patrick, and the rest of the gang have done right by the fans here. All issues have been resolved, Dagen's AA-style survivors' meeting brings back a lot of familiar faces, and, while they don't beat you over the head with it, you do get a sense of what Jigsaw was trying to accomplish with his "method" and more importantly, whether or not it worked. And ultimately, it's a Saw movie. They didn't pull a Jason Goes To Hell and completely change their MO for the finale - apart from the 3D aspect, there's nothing here that would seem out of place in another entry.

And that's what I think will separate Saw from any other horror franchise, though it may take a while for folks to truly appreciate it for it. The team has remained remarkably constant throughout the series, and they never went the H20 route and decided to ignore a few entries so they wouldn't have to deal with the storyline anymore. While they have obviously gone up and down in terms of storytelling/acting quality, we still have six sequels that each pay respect to the original film and the sequels that preceded it - a rarity that may never be achieved again. Most horror series don't even retain any of the core crew past the 2nd or 3rd film - Don Mancini wrote all five Chucky films, but that's about it (and even then, they changed tone drastically, and had 5 different directors). Love em or hate em, no one can deny that they were putting a lot of effort into rewarding the folks who kept coming back year after year; a true serialized film series.

I'm glad the series ended on a relative high note. It's not one of the best ones, but it's better than IV or V, and could even be matched with II (I'd have to give it another look to know for sure, preferably in 2D to keep things on an even playing field), which would put it about in the middle of the pack - and keep in mind I like all of them (even V, the worst one, I'd give a C+). And it will certainly have a longer shelf life than Paranormal Activity 2, so Kevin Greutert should be ironically happy about the situation* - he ended up doing the better film. I know I had some concerns, but it's ultimately a good time at the movies, and the minor pacing/story issues are pretty much forgotten once that final reel kicks in and Charlie Clouser's amazing theme plays that one last time.

I'll miss you, Saw.

What say you?

*If you hadn't heard, Greutert was set to direct Paranormal 2 when Lionsgate and Twisted decided to force him to direct Saw 3D (forcing out already set director David Hackl) based on his contract, which they had originally planned to ignore, I guess. But he still gave the film his all, and that is to be commended. He also got in a hilarious jab in his pre-movie introduction that not everyone got but made me laugh out loud and cheer ("Lionsgate would like to thank the families of the deceased for their cooperation."). Horror nerd humor and shitty business shenanigans collide!


  1. Solid review. Really looking forward to this one and I'm hoping that I'll be able to catch it in 3D. Sounds like fun.

    One question, though: why did put the year 2007 in the title?

  2. Cuz I'm half asleep? LOL, thanks!!! Fixed.

  3. The Scream Trilogy has kept the storyline consistent and not ignored anything..Shame you didn't mention that in your post.

    Scream and Saw are about the the only two franchises that were consistent.

    However, you are wrong about SAW 3D "All issues have been resolved"

    If anything, SAW 3D has even created some new ones, such as who are the accomplices who help Dr Gordon capture Hoffman?

  4. I wouldn't say that's a huge issue, it's obviously two other folks who were saved by Jigsaw. As we can now surmise, with Amanda, Gordon, and Hoffman becoming followers, he was actually (if unintentionally) starting a cult of sorts. And with Gordon openly mocking Dagen in front of the other survivors (and Dagen's claim that Gordon had been around the meetings for a long time), it's obvious he recruited some folks to get back at the guy (Hoffman) who was hurting John's legacy.

    And yes, Scream was consistent (assuming 4 doesn't ignore the events of the previous film or films). It's almost like I specifically said "MOST horror series don't even retain any of the core crew past the 2nd or 3rd film". So there's two. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare On Elm St, Hellraiser, Texas CHainsaw Massacre, Leprechaun, Puppet Master, Final Destination, The Grudge... they all had drastic personnel changes throughout. I was illustrating a point, not writing a thesis.

  5. Just for this, I'm gonna have to marathon the series soon. I'm really a bit too squeamish for these, but I love puzzling together the why's,how's and who's.

    It's just too bad that was spoiled pretty much from day 2.

  6. Awesome review. I definitely agree with you about the ending. Would have loved for that moment to have been the big reveal instead of seeing him in the beginning. I too am sad that this series is leaving us (supposedly). Maybe now that the series is done people can start discovering the films instead of just immediately writing them off as "torture porn."

    Also I love that the Wikipedia article has quotes from Chester Bennington talking about going to an acting coach to figure out the motivation of his character. Apparently it's a lot of work to figure out how to scream "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" and "AAAAAHHHHHHH!"

  7. Hahahah that is amazing. I felt bad for Gabby too - she just screams and dies. At least Tanedra got an actual role. Hell, Tanedra was in THIS one more than Gabby was.

  8. Yeah I thought that was really weird that they gave her that role. I would have liked to have seen her as the girl in the very first trap. Then she would have had some actual lines.

  9. Nice review, BC. Once again, I agree 100% with your point about this franchise being 'a true serialized film series'. It really is quite impressive when you think about just how consistent the series is overall...for that I gotta commend the boys at Twisted Pictures.

  10. I saw the movie yesterday. I am not thrilled about the 3D and think it did barely anything to increase the satisfaction of the overall film.

    There were barely any scenes in actual 3D. Just a few guts and some flying debris.

    I think they should have stretched the sequences with Dr.Gordon further and made that more related to the main overall plot of the flim and not made it some 5 second flashback right at the end.

  11. I think my experience would have been enhanced if there was someone in the front of the theater tossing raw hamburger at me during the more explosive 3D sequences. Check out my take here!

    Happy Halloween everybody...

  12. I can't wait. The Missus and I have been watching each episode every night leading up to our Saw 3D screening. I'm so damn proud that us Aussies kicked off a game changing horror franchise that has (as you said) stayed true to it's MO and has also kept the key cast. Nothing short of IMPRESSIVE!

    I really hope they leave it alone after this. It would be nice to have such a tight and true series complete for our favourite genre.


  13. Spoilers, people, spoilers. So be warned. Just saw it and it was outstanding. I agree with you about the appearance of the good doctor, but that's a small complaint. My husband and I always wondered how these devices could be put inside someone without killing them first. If you have a doctor helping you then that makes more sense. Again, a small detail that adds to the story. I liked the ending. Thought it was great and fitting. How better to end this series of movies than to take it back to the very beginning. We did not see it in 3D, but It looked like it was no great loss. I will miss it next Halloween!

  14. Hey BC just saw the final installment and I honestly really enjoyed it...As you stated it truly is a movie for the fan base that has followed them all the way through but the deaths were pretty awesome...The skin tearing and fish hook was insane and awesome. My mom isn't a huge fan and after it was over I asked her what she thought and her exact reply was "it's a saw film" so to me that meant she enjoyed it but didn't expect anything from it. The closing was a great tie up to all of the loose ends and the 3D was pretty awesome. They did have some cheap 3D tricks but I thought it added to the fun of the film instead of making you go..uggg...that is cheesy...But I definitely want to see it again, and I love Saw 4..much bettter then 5 and 3 in my eyes but thats the great thing about this series...People love 4 and hate it at the same time but will enjoy 5 and not like 2. There truly is at least 1 for all horror fanboys and girls. see you tomorrow at the NEW BEV!

  15. That they made everything a bit more OTT in order to try and take advantage of the 3D is a shame. A lot of the traps and situations just seemed a bit more... cartoonish somehow. And this was the only Saw film where I just couldn't suspend my disbelief as to the traps themselves. The car trap was way too elaborate even for a Saw film, the furnace trap at the end looked like something from a Transformers movie, the gun trap was just a WTF and how the hell was Hoffman supposed to have set up the opening trap (and the Car trap now that I think about it)without anybody noticing?

    I thought the plot was fairly weak too. Bobby Dagen's game just came across as a hollow retread of William's game from Saw VI. I didn't like the change in Hoffman's character from cool and collected to rampaging maniac and the resolution to the conflict between him and Jill was unsatisfying - she didn't even really try and fight back. And the twist, even though I'd seen it coming, STILL came across as being very rushed and coming out of nowhere.

    It wasn't all bad though, some of the traps were pretty awesome (my personal favourite being the aforementioned furnace trap - yes, it was farfetched, but that didn't make it any less visceral) and it did feel pretty great to see the good doctor come back and deliver some justice at the end. Certainly not one of the best Saw films and certainly not what I really wanted from an end to the series, but it was satisfactory, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe I'll feel better about it on a second (in mind-numbing 2D!) viewing.

  16. I honestly didn't understand Dagen's game. It was just revenge and far below the Jigsaw standard to so to speak. I noticed that this is the one game where the doors to the next staging didn't lock every time and kept hoping that we were going to get a reveal that if Bobby had "reprioritized and focused on his loved ones" by letting all the others die he would have had time and the resources to save his wife. Frankly, that game was unwinnable (pectoral muscles can't sustain that weight and pressure for that long) and there was no twist.

    I had such high hopes for the finale judged upon that opening scene. I thought maybe Jigsaw's victim was us "the voyeurs" maybe they were going to hit on the reality TV thing... the way VI sort of confronted health care.

    But no. Nothing.

    It was hard to care about Jill and Hoffman because I really am indifferent to both of them. Why they turned their last chance at telling John's story into a cat and mouse game between Hoffman and some new FBI guy, is the real mystery of this final installment.

    Honestly, this felt like the opening of a third trilogy to me with a much cooler jigsaw stand-in taking up the reins.

  17. I got to see this yesterday. It was the only one I saw in theatres because I just started up with the series this year on DVD. I was pretty satisfied. The plotting was pretty expert but it would've been better if The Dread Priate Roberts hadn't showed up until the end. It also would've been great if they had concealed his participation completely until the big reveal at the end. This info would've made it's way onto the internet within hours of the first screening and would've have been a real reward to fans who saw it first. Oh well.

    The traps were great except for the hanging of Dagen's best friend. Hanging was a bit tame compared with the other grizzly deaths (my favorite was his publicists'. Flopping the small amount of "meat" on her face after freeing up the hook was a great little gross out). It was great to see the jaw trap finally go off (I've only seen the other movies once a piece and I'm pretty sure that thing never got tripped). So that was kind of a reward for fans (which was pretty convoluted if not a little poetic) I did wonder why Dagen didn't just hook the hooks on his belt. Sure, he didn't know that no one was watching, but i'd say it was a pretty good bet given the pre-recorded communiqu├ęs set all through the trap site.

    I hate it when innocents get killed in these movies. Dagen's wife did not deserve to be baked alive. I think that's why Nazis make such great villains. The audience never feels bad when they get killed in horrible ways. But it sucks to see those innocents (especially the doe eyed ones) get offed. And, it kinda delegitimizes Jigsaw's whole "alternative" view of morality and turns him into a full fledged villain instead of an anti-hero.

    Thanks for the review.

  18. i liked this movie. Just got done watching it. It did wrap up nicely. I agree with pretty much all the ups and downs you have pertaining to the movie also.

  19. "You may disagree, but I've always felt the series is much more intelligent than its given credit for."

    BUH? GUH?

    This series, to me, has always been like the dumb person that tries to use vocabulary they don't understand to act smart, and then mispronounces and misuses it. It is given WAY TOO MUCH credit for being smart, and it's all smoke and mirrors. The series is butt fucking dumb, and all they do to make you THINK it's smart is by starting each movie by telling you a character from the previous one did something you didn't think they did. And it's all totally random and made up along the way. There is no master plan, that much is clear.

    This is one of the most excruciatingly boring and witless horror series I've endured and I am glad it's over.

  20. the movie hasn't arrived to my country yet. i can't wait anymore! i love "saw" movies and now in 3D?! WoW.

  21. Keelee von CupcakeJanuary 21, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I'm one of like three people alive who loves the SAW series but didn't really enjoy this film to a large extent because I felt the entire concept of Dagen's game was antithetical to the "values" (or what have you) Jigsaw's previous games had all strove to promote. At the end of the game, Dagen is still alive and reasonably well for muffin's sake!

    If nothing else, they should have sealed his completely innocent wife in the furnace thing so she would be -safe- while the rest of the room somehow murdered Dagen for his total failure. Poisonous gas, perhaps? That would have made some sense, as in Saw 2 where the innocent teen boy is revealed to be safe (ha) and sound while his reprehensible father is taken out.

    I did love Dr. Gordon's part - more of him and Tobin is always welcome, they're such interesting characters and excellent actors. Not so Hoffman, whose character I haven't been able to get into EVER, as he's always come off as a selfish lunatic to me who doesn't follow Jigsaw's precepts either and therefore certainly isn't any -better- of a flawed apprentice than Amanda was/could have been. I like Jill's character but she's just never given anything to do.

    So, I am happy that they finally dispatched with him and brought in someone I actually like and care about in the "apprentice" role for the first time since Saw 3 made Amanda into a villain. It's just a shame that the awesome-ness of that is only 5% of the movie tops, and who knows if it will ever continue on.


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