Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery
Directed by Kevin Greutert
So Saw is officially over. And if you really believe that, I have some copies of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Jason Goes to Hell, and Freddy’s Dead to sell you. That said, Saw 3D officially marks the end of this crazed seven-year cycle, and Lionsgate has made several moves to make sure it goes out with a bang.
This time the game revolves around slimy self-help guru Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a Jigsaw survivor who has grown rich off his story and parading around fellow victims. Naturally, he’s abducted and thrown into another series of morality tests in order to save his wife and fellow cohorts. Meanwhile, the sadistic Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) also plots revenge against Jigsaw’s widow (Betsy Russell), who has been locked away in protective custody ever since trying to kill him at the end of Saw VI. And yes, the fate of Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes, in a brief role) is finally revealed in the film’s worst kept secret. But even though it’s no longer a surprise, it’s still great to have everyone’s favorite Dread Pirate Roberts thrown back into the bloody fray.
Everything about Saw 3D is wildly over-the-top. The 3D itself is fully utilized (the production used real 3D cameras instead of that post-conversion crap) so blood and body parts fly into your face at high velocity. The traps, still creative as hell, are now one step shy of becoming Transformers robots. How Mandylor is able to set up devices that would take a team of electrical engineers years to construct is beyond all explanation (unless he has secret protégés of protégés that we’ll learn about in Saw 8-11). That said, nitpicking through this film is just pathetic. If you’ve made it this far into the series, you’re not watching Saw for its logic; and when it comes to good old-fashioned gory exploitation, there’s an undeniable charm to this installment. It isn’t nearly as well crafted as the previous entry (thanks to some well-publicized production problems), but at least the high body count and outrageous plot twists keep the series from sinking back down to Saw V levels of boredom.
This is largely due to series editor Kevin Greutert, who returns to direct (possibly with a Jigsaw trap strapped to his head), and despite the abhorrent circumstances behind the scenes, it’s still good to have him back. Saw VI was arguably the best in the series, and Greutert still manages to bring a lot of energy to this follow-up. At this point everyone involved has a real grasp on the crowd-pleasing elements, and they’ve honed the franchise into cinematic comfort food. Most of the ridiculous back-plotting that dominated the lesser films has been stripped back to make room for more meat and potatoes – which is to say, blood ‘n guts. For the diehards it does answer some of those lingering questions but wisely moves things forward for the rest of us. The only drawback is a serious lack of Tobin Bell, who has about as much screen time as he did in the first film.
Saw 3D is kind of like watching one of the better Friday the 13ths: It ain’t high art, but you know what you’re getting and you get what you pay for: the kind of hoot-and-holler entertainment best enjoyed with a flask and a whole group of buddies. For better and for worse, this series has had a huge impact on horror, and until Jigsaw returns again, the next few Halloweens will feel a little emptier.
3 1/2 out of 5
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