So…. The Saw franchise eh? More of a mixed bag than a pack of Rowntree’s Randoms. More grisly than Grizzly Adams himself. More full of D-list actors than an episode of an original SyFy movie presentation… One day I’ll review Transmorphers or Titanic 2. So here I am at the alleged, for the 4th time I believe, final chapter in the series. A series more convoluted and twisty than that chicks intestines in the opening trap sequence of this film. You’ll have to see it to see what I mean. So what did I think of this latest entry in the most monetised movie franchise of the 2000s?
Well let us start by me saying I do not despise the franchise. If it was between this and the Hostel films being turned into a yearly cash cow I am glad it is this one that got that treatment. Cos Hostel films suck. The Saw films were on an amazingly smooth transition for clever and interesting first installment to my god it’s so awful Troll 2 and The Room are mocking it 5th installment. And then came the 6th film, which I quite enjoyed. The guy in the trap was a jerk just doing his job. A jerk who had severely wronged Jigsaw by using a technicality to refuse him a treatment for his cancer. Something that’s all too common in the US these days and a burning issue of healthcare reform. yes, Saw 6 made a topical commentary on the US healthcare system and used it as a hook to drag some sap through a series of tortures. Saw 6 IMO is the film that should have been Saw 2. So I sat down to watch Saw 7 hoping they could continue this new jump in quality.
Well it didn’t really manage it. In fact I’d say it manages to jump back a few films in quality level. What would be the first problem? There is a trap right at the start held in a public place. A set of 3 circular saws are placed on a rig in a triangle formation. At either side is 2 guys who don’t seem to like each other and above the upwards facing saw is a woman that’s manipulated them both. They have to either push the saw into the other guy killing him or decide together to leave the upright one where it is to kill the girl. Well I already told you we see her intestines so you know what happens. This all happens without any attempt to make us give a shit. We don’t know these people. We don’t know the events that led to this. We don’t know how connected they were emotionally. All we know is that they are dicks and probably all deserve to die and after one does the film carries on with little to no mention of that event and it had zero effect on the story as a whole. If this sequence has anything of merit it is that it is set during daylight which helps give it a slightly more unique feel to every single other trap in Saw. Of course, the image has still been digitally manipulated to look blue though.
The plot.. I should say “plot” really but that would waste quotation marks.. follows a Internal investigations officer called Detective Matt Gibson (I had to imdb that) who has been given information by Jigsaws ex wife that Detective Hoffman, the man who has taken up Jigsaws mantel, is behind the killings. At least that’s what I thought was the plot. But then this guy called Bobby Dagen (had to imdb that too) appears and he’s apparently a survivor of one of Jigsaw’s games. I say appears to be because it’s pretty obvious he’s lying right from the start and you know he’s the guy who’s gonna have an nice hour or so to wander around a house setting off traps that will kill and maim his closest jerkoff friends. His wife, who is unaware of his lies, is at the end of this ordeal. I’ll let you guess if she makes it.
Now as usual the issue here is the same as with a lot of the previous films. There’s no focus on the actual story. Is the main plot the cops chasing Hoffman? Is it the guy in the trap? Why is there no real link between the guy in the trap and anyone chasing Hoffman to make us have any sort of emotional link to the events. The only people we as an audience will care about being in danger are Jigsaws widow Jill and Dagens wife Joyce. But as is to be expected in the lazier Saw films we don’t spend much time with them and they spend about 70% of their screen time either standing still or sat in a room, shackled or not.
Now if say Joyce was the younger sister of the IA officer investigating Hoffman we’d have some sort of emotional link. Maybe if Jill maybe had gone on the run due to her not trusting the cops, an issue she voices many times, we’d have some tension as she goes on the run. It would also force Hoffman into the wild to track her down which would leave him exposed and add to the rising tension by having the IA officer close in on him in an environment he isn’t comfortable with. The problem with this film is similar to problems with a lot of films these days. Characters are to physically and emotionally static. They are either in total control or are stuck where they are which leaves the apparent protagonists to o all the work. But when one of your protagonists (Detective Gibson) is such a terrible actor that we can’t connect and the other, (Dagen) is such a lying fake of a character we can’t connect.
Saw fans will have you believe that the series is really deep and meaningful. it is not. Like, at all. the series has an interesting basic premise that has long become too ridiculous to be believable and the most interesting character in the series has been dead for 3 films. Tobin Bell is a skilled actor and he makes the character of Jigsaw one you want to see. In this film he is more marginalised than ever but as with the previous films he gets to make a few appearances via flashback and, I’m not kidding, VHS. Guess the series is set in the mid 90s. Also he’s seemingly becoming super human as in the short space of time between the first Saw and his death he seemed to get up to a hell of a lot of construction work. Now he had helpers, a new one revealed in this film in fact, but surely these traps are so elaborate that you would have had to have spent months planning and constructing some of them.
The film does have it’s pluses. Some of the traps are a little more intimate than before, the fish hook trap being a particularly fun to watch. Also Dagen has to pull some teeth out at one point and that’s always fun to watch on film. What? Lord Chester Bennington III of Linkin Park fame makes a cameo where he must pull himself from a car seat he is glued to in a trap that serves the purpose of letting the police manage to miss Hoffman’s hideout… again. Best of all the rubbish shaky, frantic, spinning cam stuff from the previous films is pretty much gone. Most likely because taht sort of camerawork is a big no-no for 3D. Probably the only good thing to come of 3D is the return of the steady cam. I’m sure Michael Bay will do something about that though.
So overall it’s not a very good film. Below average but not to the depths of Saws 4 and 5. Probably on par with the third film. Which was pants. it lacks directorial skill, Every shot is either blue or green (enough with the colour saturation guys), story telling is messy and characters are poorly defined, Most of the cast have all the acting talent of the grime between my keyboards keys and it’s gotten so convoluted now that the best thing they could do is just ditch this storyline and start somewhere else or make a tv series. But then it would be yet another reboot and how often do they work?