After a number of sequels whose quality was gradually descending from the heights of being good towards being mediocre, Saw VI was a refreshing entry in the Saw series and was a return to form. I was actually surprised how much I liked it as opposed to being sort of yet another Saw movie to get through. With that said, I heard nothing but bad things about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. Even the people who are fans of the series usually say it’s by far the worst entry. I lowered my expectations as much as possible, and I think that’s partially why I kind of enjoyed this to a degree. Nonetheless, I’m not exactly sure how this movie ended up the way it did, even for the lows the series have gone in the past, it’s a little surprising that Saw 3D is this awful.
The embarrassingly named Saw 3D: The Final Chapter tries to be so many things at once, and pretty much fails in all of them. The writing is abysmal, it is such a mess and lacks the elements that made even the weaker Saw movies somewhat work. For as goofy as the movies got, the tone was pretty dark across all of them. With the opening trap though, it establishes it as a different type of movie, feeling very goofy and campy throughout and I’m not 100% sure that it was intentional. This trap takes place in broad daylight in public and involves two guys having to fight over a girl and it’s actually worse than how I’m describing it. Not that there isn’t entertainment to be had from it, but you just can’t take it seriously. None of the story is genuinely interesting, none of the attempted twists really work, and the characters are dull. Even with Saw V, there were some aspects that were interesting. With this movie however I was just watching this as a purely camp horror film. Some of the dialogue in the movies can be bad, but this movie reaches new lows in hilariously bad lines, I sure hope that some of them were partially intentional. This time the Jigsaw game is focusing on a character named Bobby, who lied being part of a Jigsaw game and is profiting off it for money and success, and he’s now finding himself in a real Jigsaw game. That’s fine enough and different for a Saw movie, even if it’s not as interesting compared to the last movie. It certainly had potential, but it was very mishandled in many ways. For one, the lead character is boring, but it doesn’t stop there. A massive flaw is that the movie had quite a big focus on the traps, specifically the gore, and I mean more than usual. There’s really no meaning behind the traps at this point, it just revels in extremity and the gore. With the previous movie, they tied the lead character with having to make decisions over peoples lives, like how he decided whether people got health insurance or not. You’d think that there’d be something like that for Bobby, but nothing like that happened. It’s just “here’s another gruesome trap” for you to see. With the movies it feels like there is a chance that people will get out of the traps, without that however there is no tension, and we are basically just watching gore happen. Besides, it’s already so silly that it’s hard to take any of this seriously. Additionally, by the end of the movie, the whole game doesn’t feel like it really matters to the rest of the plot.
There’s also a police subplot, which isn’t unusual for the series, as they try to investigate and hunt down Jigsaw (in this instance Hoffman). However, it’s the worst attempt at a police or investigation subplot in the series. It’s incredibly weak and boring here, and you don’t really care for it, not helped by the very bland lead detective. Hoffman is also here after Jill Tuck tried to kill him in the last movie, and he’s hunting her down. Every so often it cuts to that storyline in between Bobby and the traps, it’s not very interesting or well handled either. Then there’s the whole Final Chapter aspect, it tries to tie up so many storylines, it really fails and feels rushed. This was meant to be 2 movies and was rushed into 1, and that’s completely unsurprising looking at the results. There are plenty of callbacks to the other Saw movies which you notice but they don’t really feel earned. As can be seen with the cast list, with Cary Elwes included, Dr Gordon is back. His return was much anticipated ever since the first movie and no mention of him in the sequels. The very first scene of the movie is a flashback cutting back to him after he escapes the room at the end of the first Saw. After that he also gets a scene in the first act and for the longest time doesn’t appear in the movie again. Eventually you learn why he’s in the movie, but even then it raises a lot of questions. The most identifiably enjoyable section of the movie has to be the last third of the movie, which is so over the top I can’t help but enjoy it. I won’t go into it too much if you want to see for yourself but the movie sort of turns into a slasher movie. When I say slasher movie I don’t mean the scary kind, I mean the incredibly silly kind where a lot of people get killed but it’s just entertaining. There’s even a scene where someone is running away, and it looks straight out of one of the movies from the Scary Movie series. There is a twist and reveal at the end of the movie (since all Saw movies have these), but it ends up creating more questions than answers. Without spoiling anything, I like the last scene plotwise and in concept, it makes a lot of sense with how they end it. However the context surrounding that reveal and scene has its own issues, requiring some explanations that we aren’t getting. Saw 3D is really lucky that it’s not the last movie in the series because this was quite a bad note to end it on.
Right after Saw VI having some of the better acting of the series, Saw 3D has some of the worst acting of the series. With Saw V and Saw VI, there’s been a reduced amount of Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw, which wasn’t particular exciting considering that Bell is one of the only consistently good things about these movies. However in those movies, he appears in some significant flashbacks in the storylines, and does enough that it makes up for his lack of screentime. With that said, in Saw 3D he has way less scenes, you don’t get much of him, and in fact this has to be the least amount of screentime an actor has had while having top billing as in the movie. With that said, Bell brings his A game as usual. Not to mention, in one of his scenes involving a flashback with Bobby, his choice of disguise is just so… unbelievable that I almost recommend watching the movie just for that scene. Sean Patrick Flanery plays Bobby, the main victim in the Jigsaw game of this movie. I wouldn’t say he’s terrible considering some of the other acting in this movie, but he’s just passable. As for Bobby as a character, he’s not annoying or frustrating like Jeff from Saw III but he’s not interesting, he’s underdeveloped and the audience don’t have much reason to care about him. Just a very forgettable character and performance, and one of the weaker Saw protagonists. The main detective this time is Matt Gibson, a new character. If they kept any of the FBI agents from Saw VI alive, any of them easily could’ve fitted this role very well. Unfortunately, Hoffman killed both of them, so another cop character had to be created, who just so happens to be the worst of the main detectives. Gibson is such a boring and forgettable character, given particularly bad dialogue, and Chad Donella’s performance is honestly laughable. Costas Mandylor returns as ex detective and Jigsaw apprentice Mark Hoffman. I’m not sure that the film really knew what to do with him really for the majority of the movie. Then at a certain point towards the latter portion of the film, he becomes something of a slasher villain, and that’s where he shines. He basically just becomes the Hoffmanator, taking that voice recording scene from Saw VI where he killed 3 people in quick succession, and goes to a whole other level here. As said earlier, Cary Elwes returns as Doctor Gordon. He appears in the very first scene, he appears in a meeting of Jigsaw survivors, and without spoiling anything he does appear again. All I’ll say about his purpose in this movie is that the use of him wasn’t great. This Gordon isn’t developed enough in this movie, nor does he really have enough screentime to make him work as well as he could’ve. That’s not even to mention that the actual performance was… off. I know that a lot of people aren’t the biggest fan of his acting in the first Saw, but in the survivor meeting scene, he is just so creepy and sinister that is just so random. I’ve never heard anyone utter the term “promotional DVD” with such evilness. The acting from the people stuck in traps can be hilariously over the top that it really takes away even further from the gory traps. Really the only actor in the traps who I thought was good was the late Chester Bennington, who’s great in his 1-2 minutes of screentime.
Probably the biggest surprise of this movie is that Saw 3D is helmed by Kevin Greutert, the director of the very solid Saw VI. It seems so strange that someone who did some really good work on the last instalment would then produce such a below subpar movie. As it turns out however, this movie was supposed to be made in two parts with David Hackl (director of Saw V) directing. However Twisted Pictures fired Hackl at the last minute and forced Greutert to come back to direct it as 1 movie roughly 1-2 weeks before shooting began. Keep in mind that he was about to direct Paranormal Activity 2, but was made to create the last Saw movie because of a clause in his contract. So for all the many faults, I don’t blame him at all. He wasn’t able to incorporate or bring new ideas to the movie, and had to work with what he was given. That aside, this film is terrible on a technical level. First of all, the look of the movie. All the previous Saw movies had this very grimy look to it, but it has become part of the aesthetic of the franchise, and fits perfectly for the tone and vibe of the series. Saw 3D on the other hand is so brightly lit even in the trap scenes, it looks awful especially compared to the past movies. If there’s a Saw movie that could be called torture porn, it’s this one. It really tries to pack as many traps as possible, they even use a dream sequence as an excuse to add yet another trap. Not only that but they really amp up the gore, which leads me to the effects in that they were embarrassingly bad. You can tell that for all the lows of the past movies, most of the gore scenes were made with practical effects and looked somewhat realistic. Here though the gore looks really fake, both the practical and CGI effects. As for the traps themselves, they reach new heights in being over the top, even by Saw standards. At the same time, many of them were rather uninspired, unmemorable, and don’t stand out.
Time to address the elephant in the room, the 3D in Saw 3D. It was 2010 and unfortunately the notion of adding 3D to big movies hadn’t started to die down yet, so for the last instalment, for whatever reason some people decided that the film should be shot in 3D. It being hard to take the movie seriously with the use of 3D (and even adding it in the title), the fact that they shot the movie in this way really made it worse. First of all, there are things flying at the camera all the time, mainly the gore and body parts, and without actually watching it in 3D it just looks stupid every time it has one of those moments. Second of all, all the blood in this movie is pink, no doubt it appears red for people seeing it in 3D, but here it’s just makes it even harder to take the scenes of violence seriously. There’s a moment where they use the footage from the end of Saw VI when Hoffman escapes the reverse bear trap and his cheek is ripped open, with realistic blood and gore effects. Then it follows right after that and with the new footage in Saw 3D, when he’s sewing his face back up there’s just pink blood all over his face. In terms of standout sequences, it’s just the skinhead trap and a certain sequence involving Hoffman towards the end of the movie. The only genuinely good thing on a technical level is Charlie Clouser’s score, he’s pretty reliable but unfortunately not even he can elevate many of the scenes in this movie.
I could go on and on about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter but the short of it is that it basically fails on every level. It fails as a Saw movie because there’s no tension or really any horror (just gore), and the twists aren’t particularly good. It also fails on being a conclusion to the main 7 movie arc. Saw 3D has become unfortunately a parody of itself, and I find it particularly hard to take it seriously. The only way it doesn’t fail is that it does provide some entertainment although a lot of it is unintentional, with some of the acting, directing and writing choices being so absurd that it is quite enjoyable. As for whether or not you should watch this, if you made it through the previous 6 Saw movies, you might as well watch the final one (of the main storyline at least). Though to have the most enjoyment with this, you really have to go in with the right mindset. Lower your expectations and once you figure out what this movie is going to be early on, you might then be able to enjoy it.