Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Saw 7: The Better Not Be Final Chapter

I’ve gone on record more than once regarding my gooey affection for the Saw series. Sure, the story is more tangled than Natasha Lyonne’s hair, the gore grosser than Natasha Lyonne’s bathroom floor, and the acting often patcher than Natasha Lyonne in a mesh t-shirt, but darnit, these movies are fun. Blackened humor fun covered in guts, but fun nevertheless. Best of all, the films actually take place in their own genuine universe, a place rich in rusty bolts, sinners, old timesy tricycles, and characters that actually return 6 entries later.

Basically, if you ever want to pick a fight with me, insult Saw. Unless you’re limiting said attack to Part V, I will bury you.
It was a sunny Sunday morning when I decided an extra hour of Daylight Savings given sleep warranted a 10AM viewing of Saw 3D. Having seen all but Part 1 in the theater I knew I owed it to myself (and the producers) to pony up $10 and don those plastic glasses for what could potentially be “The Final Chapter” (cause that was so true for Jason).
To give some basis for my Saw stance, below is my summation on each film:
I. A pleasant surprise, despite its collection of terrible performances from somewhat to very respected actors (Elwes, Glover). Notable for, at the time, feeling incredibly fresh and refreshingly nihilistic.

II. Probably my favorite of the series, a tighter film that successfully amped up the gore and game. Lots of great deaths, two neat twists, and one Wahlberg.

III. Though a lot of fans cite this as the best, I enjoy it far less than most of the other movies. Two unlikable protagonists, an ending that takes away too many interesting characters too quickly, pig guts, shouting, general ugliness. Not my favorite.

IV. For some reason, I seem to be the only cheerleader for this entry, one that  (in my opinion) boasts the only sympathetic lead. Plus, Donnie Wahlberg’s head gets smashed and the Mandylor gets revealed for all his Costasness.

V. Shit. For so many reasons, shit. Does nothing but give Jill Tuck a box. The Fatal 5 feels like the first draft of Part II and worst of all, the lone survivor (Lions Gate slave Julie Benz) seems like a Jigsaw cohort, is never confirmed, then never seen again. Boo.

VI. The most pleasant prize of the bunch, a clever (if ham-fisted) attempt to say something about healthcare, with some of the best traps and biggest surprises. Read my full review here

So. Knowing that part VI director Kevin Greutert was returning (against his will, since his fingers were pried off the Paranormal Activity sequel by contractual obligations), I was pumped. What follows will reek of SPOILERS, but to those who may stop reading here, know that if you enjoyed any of the other Saws, you will probably love this one.
Quick Plot: Um. Quick?
I swear this gets harder with every sequel.
Okay, breaking it down:
1.Bobby is a self-help celebrity superstar who cashed in on surviving a Jigsaw trap. Problem is, he never actually went through a trap which naturally means he’ll be the next subject in Jigsaw’s friends-and-family game. Think of his thread as the timeframe device, complete with a ticking digital countdown clock that apparently the apprentices bought wholesale.

2. Jill has gone to the rat squad of the FBI (yes, I watch too much Law & Order: SVU) to finger Detective Hoffman as Jigsaw’s current working apprentice. Agent Gibson ( a hilariously southern Chad Donella) takes the case.

3.Hoffman, now scarred and still so jacked he can’t bend, orchestrates a few new side games targeting Neo-Nazis, Jill, and Gibson. It’s funny, because Costas Mandylor remains an increasingly hilarious presence. I just can’t believe this is an actual person.

What can one even say about the 7th Saw film? That it’s just as gory, perplexing, funny, and ridiculously as enjoyable as IV & VI? Take, for example, the simply amazing cameo by Scream Queens Season 1 champ Tanedra, who returns with one arm to scream at a Jigsaw Survivors Support Group (yes, that this group exists in itself is fabulous):
“The only good thing that came out of my experience is getting handicapped parking at the goddamned mall!”

Why was I the only one in my admittedly uncrowded theater laughing at that?
Other points of giddiness:
-The fact that FBI agents continue to enter the lairs of supergenius serial killers without calling backup

-The fact that none of the many agents killed last year by Hoffman thought to leave a post-it saying “Hoffman might be killer. Confronting him now. If I die, see other post-it” 
-The new lead FBI Agent and everything he did, including addressing Jill solely as “Crazy” and checking the tiny corner of a bathroom crime scene to see if Hoffman had been hiding there for the last seven hours

-Tobin Bell, in his signature flashback cameo, wearing a backwards baseball cap and dungarees. A BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP!!!
-For whatever reason (I say that a lot with the Saw movies) there’s a Changeling-esqe wheelchair just hanging out in the lair and a random kill takes place in a garden gnome factory

Like every entry before it, Saw 3D has received its share of criticism. I can’t imagine why. Yes, it reuses a subplot we’ve seen in every film since part 3, but it also introduces new traps and expands the Saw universe in pretty neat ways. The idea that past survivors continue to exist in Saw’s chronology offers some good potential for future films (because we can all agree “The Final Chapter” is just something to say for theaters not showing it in 3D, right?) and also hits on one of the more interesting aspects of the Jigsaw’s nature. Ever since Amanda first uttered, through reverse bear trap scars, “He...helped...me,” there’s always been that curiosity of if and how his macabre lessons actually play out. Here, we get to see a few more.
Yup, Doct-ar Gord-on! (as I can only say in my best Michael Emerson shout) is back, sporting a few extra pounds, a mild limp, and the same lovably awful American accent we first heard seven (!!!) years ago. That in itself is a mild treat to Saw devotees.

What else can we ask for? A screaming and useless chick getting burned to death? Check. A smarmy self-help phony pulling out his molars and inserting hooks into his nipples? Done. It’s understandable that such things won’t make everybody happy. Just don’t insult the people that it does.
High Points
The film’s biggest group trap includes a speeding tire, arm ripoff, and skinhead superglued to his car. It’s lovely. Similarly, one trap involving a blinded character navigating an unfinished floor (while wearing a ready-to-activate noose) is surprisingly tense

Low Points
While the 3D seemed more relevant than something like Piranha or The Final Destination, it still didn’t quite meet my expectations. C’mon, Saw. You’re the granddaddy of Rube Goldbergian kill-traps for this generation. Couldn’t you find something else to throw at us than piles of intestines?
Lessons Learned
When being chased by a bloodthirsty sadist, hiding in an exposed little nook between book shelves with no weaponry isn’t really the best way to save your life

Carinal rule of horror continues: any female with a T-starting name will demonstrate slut tendencies. And die a fairly painful death (in this case, in front of hundreds of morning shoppers)

Matters of the FBI are best kept between agents. There’s absolutely no need to call more than two reinforcements in at any point, even if you happen to be tracking a serial killer with a larger body count than Jason Voorhees

It’s incredibly easy to tamper with FBI evidence, especially when it involves one of the biggest cases in criminal history
Unless you’re packing your own glasses, you can’t really sneak in now can you? Good, because if you love the Saw franchise, you might as well drop a few bucks down and enjoy another round of ridiculous gutty fun. Have a few drinks first, gather up your friends, and settle in for some master lessons in smarm from the hopefully always employed Costas Mandylor.

The man deserves to sell his own wine. Or something that puts his face on a label. It's like a Guess Who character come to life!


  1. Brilliant. Ever since I saw your tweet about enjoying Saw 3D, I've been looking forward to reading your opinions! I must admit, it seems most of the things you enjoyed about the movie are aspects of it that I found a tad disappointing. While I've given up trying to make much sense of the storyline after Saw III, here it was especially nonsensical. Plus Gibson's death was absolutely awful. Still, you raise some good points, although I'm afraid Costas Mandylor has never and quite possibly will never appeal to me.

    I rewatched the first Saw film recently and thoroughly enjoyed it seven years later - for me none of the other sequels quite lived up. You're right though, by now with this franchise it's no use trying to employ logic. May as well just give up and embrace the madness. Unfortunately, the madness just isn't for me.

  2. I've only seen the first two - first was disappointing, second was surprisingly great - so I don't really have much to offer here except...

    I costas your mandylor!

  3. I'm not a fan but I'm not looking to be buried, so let us just say, to each their own. 'Sides your imagery of "Natasha Lyonne in a mesh t-shirt" is going to haunt me all the way into my nightmares. haha

  4. Although it's very flawed, I actually considered part 5 a step up from 3 and 4 - both of which I thought were pretty useless except for exploring the apprentices and the neat "they're happening simultaneously" twist. I'm probably alone there, though...

    Oh and, apart from the trap itself, the thing that makes the skinhead gang's scene truly awesome is the fact that the guy superglued to the seat is Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. For fans of the band, it's great to see him on the big screen and for those who hate them, he dies horribly. Win-win!

  5. Liam: Totally understandable. I sometimes compare the Saw series to Repo! The Genetic OPera (not just because of the Bouseman connection) because both are quite slick and well-produced, but are also so incredibly divisive due to their style. The first and second Saw probably remain the best, I just find the last few films (save for V) so over the top that I can't NOT enjoy them.

    Nigel: I'll see your costas my mandylor and will double back with a mandyloring your costas!

    TS: So very sorry. May your life be free of Natasha Lyonne's potentially devastating fashion sense.

    Paul: I was also pretty pissed in part 3 and 4 when they reused the 'they're happening simultaneously!' twists, which felt incredibly lazy. I guess my issue with 5 is mostly that it feels so unnecessary in the overall arc of the series, with so much time wasted on explaining more about Jill but no real payoff. Plus, WTF was up with the 5 people in the Part 2 house? I understand that they were kind of explained in Part 6, but eh. And I HATED that they still haven't resolved Julie Benz's character. Was she good? Bad? I DON"T KNOW!

  6. The Saw 3D Auction features props and wardrobe used in SAW 3D and all the SAW movies. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Free Shipping Available! www.collectsaw.com

  7. I respect that everybody has their opinions, but SAW 5 is my favorite entry in the series. It has an excellent cat and mouse duel between Agent Straum and Hoffman with a thrilling conclusion, it has some great gore and also some key flashbacks that take your further into the backstory of some of the past sequels

  8. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? You're certainly the first I've heard favor 5, but hey...we're all special people one way or another, right? Part of my problem was that I HATED Agent Straum. He was just so darn pissy, but without the ridiculous southern twang of the similar character (equally awful, more so entertaining) in part 6.

    I will concede that the climax is pretty darn sweet. And gooey. Sweetly gooey, like a s'more.

  9. I've heard very few people in favor of Friday the 13th part 5 too, but I loved that entry in the franchise too!

  10. Great review Emily. I'm a fan of the Saw franchise as well. I really like the fact that parts 3-5 basically all take place at the same time. I don't think I've ever seen a film series do that before.

    Of course, this does make me wonder, whatever happened to Natasha Lyonne?

  11. Grey, you are a guardian angel for the lonely unloved sequel. You should give your business card to George Lucas.

    Stefan: Thank you kindly. I'm always happy when someone (ANYONE!) can agree that for all its silliness, the Saw series genuinely does do some different things with the idea of a franchise.

    And I assume Natasha Lyonne is midway through her apprenticeship as a JIgsaw assistant.