Ugggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – Another October comes to a close and that means another entry into the increasingly creaky and hopelessly idiotic Saw franchise. This time we're given a smidge of 3D to blunt the trauma of horrible acting, a terrible script, a ridiculous plot, and outright lies from the screenplay that go back and change the relationships and plot-lines of the previous films. We even get an alleged ending to the series in this one, but like everything else, it's a lie.
Okay, so what's the moral quandary that Jigsaw (and his heirs) will explore via traps that are needlessly complex, impossible to construct without a crew of 100, a budget in the tens of thousands, and a support crew of dozens to bring the increasingly huge numbers of pawns in the torture games this time around? In the previous films we were expected to believe that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) were able to muscle all of the cast and Donnie Wahlberg into their torture warehouse, AND design and set all the traps, AND hide all their fingerprints, tracks, and other identifying evidence.
Anyway, since Jigsaw's been dead since Saw 4 we get a 2 minute flashback of Tobin Bell and spend much of the rest of our time watching the endgame play out between Agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylore) and Jill (Betsy Russell). We don't star right where the last film left off though. A glass storefront, sort of like a miniature Apple store, appears in the city square. Inside it are two young men strapped two a gizmo made of circular saws, and a girl strapped above them and also above a circular saw. The game we start with is to test which of the boys will kill the other to save the girl. Yes, it's as if Mythbusters took on the "bros before hos" maxim.
After that silliness we jump back into Hoffmann chasing Jill, and a new cast of idiots about to get snared into Jigasaw's elaborate moralizing. Meet Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery on loan from SyFy pictures no doubt). What's Bobby's last name? Who knows. This is a Saw movie so giving last names to main characters isn't important. Bobby has made a good living for the last year recounting his harrowing ordeal at the hands of Jigsaw and how via his strength of mind, character, and upper body, he is not a better person with a more grateful outlook on life and better yet, a fiance who totally loves him. The problem is, Bobby's full of shit, but he's making a mint selling his book "S.U.R.V.I.V.E." and accompanying personal story on the talk-show circuit. But Bobby isn't able to bring his whole "A Million Little Pieces" bullshit to life without help from publicists, lawyers, and his best friend.
Before you can say "I don't care about any of these people." Bobby wakes up in a cage and is given 60 minutes to follow a trap-laden path to where his wife is also a prisoner. If you don't think he'll be forced to make life or death (all death) decisions concerning everyone who helps perpetuate his falsely earned fame, then you've never seen a Saw film before. I'm of the opinion that this whole segment was built just for anyone who might accidentally stumble into the cinema showing Saw 3D instead of some other movie so they don't feel completley baffled by the other plotline, that of the war between Jill and Hoffman, a war that's now drawn in a new cop, Internal Affairs officer Gibson. Jill gives up Hoffman immediately and begs for protection. Gibson and Hoffman had a previous tense relationship as it is, so as a way to cover his tracks, tweak the new cop in the series, Hoffman begins his own set of hilariously contrived traps to keep the rest of the police department (all 4 of them) busy and create an opening so he can get to Jill and take his revenge.
All of this seems waaaaaay more complicated than it is, in fact, the threads of this film are a lot less scattered and obnoxious than in the preceding three or so of these films. But, in being more streamlined there is less meat for the franchise's fans to chew on. I find it hard to believe that anyone will give a shit about Bobby, and the war between Hoffman and Jill is about a total of 20 minutes spread through the whole film.
Another issue that impacts the story is that we know from the beginning that Bobby is a liar, so there's no slow reveal of the character's faults that led him/her to the Jigsaw trap in the first place, and this is to the storytelling detriment. There is no wrestling with the moral choices to give information or accept your internal bullshit and reveal all of your secrets before some pneumatic whatever squishes your face. The earlier films milked this, certainly it's best in the first one, Saw, and lesser in the others. But by now we're solely watching asshole characters who have somehow screwed over Jigsaw in some way get their comeuppance so, instead of being about a terminally ill crazy man imparting the message that life is what you make it so make it good and be thankful, we're left with the guy who forgot the extra cheese on Jigsaw's pizza this one time in 1980 having to think his way out of an acid vat.
Tobin Bell gets a paycheck producing cameo in which he has his copy of S.U.R.V.I.V.E. signed by Bobby and delivers a short paragraph of cryptic threatening dialogue. Bobby, because he's an idiot, doesn't figure that the hulking scary guy asserting that S.U.R.V.I.V.E. is all bullshit might actually be the Jigsaw he faked escaping from and who has never been apprehended by the cops.
Also, weirdly for a film series consumed with continuity and fiddling the the previous episodes of the series more than George Lucas with a time machine, Bobby and Jigsaw supposedly met 4 years ago when Bobby was first on tour with his book, yet, 4 years ago Jigsaw was wheezing and burbling into an oxygen mask on the brink of death from cancer as Donny Wahlberg ran around looking for his son, so there's nooooo way Jigsaw could have been ambulatory and not oxygenated at the book signing.
Also, how is it that Bobby can make a 4 year career out of a book thinner than the collected memoirs of Miley Cyrus?
I realize that Kevin Greutert is playing around some with the tiny bloom of bullshit memoirs that hit the best seller list about three years ago, but who else in the Saw 3D audience is going to put those pieces together to establish relevance of this plot? The seven other people in the theater where I watched looked to be between the ages of 14 and 20, which would put them in the ages of between 10 and 14 when James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" was first revealed to be a fraud memoir on Oprah. Saw 6 earned a few little points by being relevant and using contemporary culture to comment on the health insurance battle. But, the problem with being contemporary is that eventually things get dated and become increasingly inaccessible, the problem with Saw 7 is that it's ALREADY dated. And, since Jigsaw is dead and both Hoffman and Jill are fighting, just who the hell is putting all of these extremely expensive and elaborate traps together for Bobby to fumble through?
Well, we've already been reacquainted with Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes who looks like he's been on an all chocolate pudding and mayonnaise diet) as a member of Bobby's Jigsaw survivors' support group. In fact, ALL of the survivors of the other films are here, I am not sure how they fit into the same sort of survival lessons that Bobby is alleged to have learned. See, the lady from Saw 6 who was part of the choice that the insurance exec made, she's here, the son of Donny Wahlberg from the poison gas tenement, he's here too, the wife and son of the insurance executive in Saw 6, they're here, so what we're seeing are not people who were given a challenge to overcome by Jigsaw, but simply people who were caught up in someone else's challenges and there only to provide an emotional component that otherwise would have been played by a gear, or a pneumatic spike, or some other cold inanimate object. So they weren't forced to dig deep and survive, they were just saved by someone else. Bringing this into focus is the predatory loan officer girl from Saw 6 who chopped off her own arm faster than the fat guy could slice off his belly fat. She doesn't buy all of this "we are strong" bullshit that Bobby is peddling. She's realistic. She overcame a Jigsaw challenge and all she got was this lousy prosthetic arm and a handicapped parking space at the mall. Her appearance here doesn't make all that much sense either as her ordeal, if I remember Saw 6 properly, was right before the end game in that film and as Saw 7 takes place on a day or so after the end of Saw 6 it's highly unlikely that she'd even be out of the hospital, let alone enjoying handicap-shortened walks from her car to Forever 21.
The direction by three time Saw franchise director Kevin Greutert is exactly like it is in the other Saw films. Mostly stationary, actors centered in screen, no sense of place or environment. He has the camera slowly circle the cast whenever they're together, like in a morgue or Internal Affairs office (with one desk and one computer), or at the survivors meeting. The rest of the time it's a stationary camera fixed in one or two spots capturing all of the horror with an unblinking eye. Hey does cut back and forth during the "Bros Before Hos" challenge but that's only because he set the trap up with both guys on either end of a table saw and with the crowd placement can't catch the whole scene in frame.
The 3D is absolutely pointless, two drops of fake intestine in keilbasa-sized lengths (seriously, crack and anatomy book guys), some eye spikes, and a a piece of flying sheet metal from an explosion to not an eye popping experience make. If ever there was proof that 3D is just a gimmick, it's Saw 3D.
The acting is universally awful even for a Saw film. Others have complained that the sound was overly boosted but my local cinema must've had mercy on me as I didn't notice it being bad at all. That said, Saw 3D features easily some of the stupidest dialogue of the millennium. For example:
Bobby: These are my scars... 'cause our minds will heal, but these scars will never go away. These scars shan't be a symbol of shame... they should be worn as a badge of courage.