Directed by Kevin Greutert
Screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor as Mark Hoffman
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby Dagen
Cary Elwes as Dr. Gordon
Dean Armstrong as Cale
Chad Donella as Gibson
Gina Holden as Joyce Dagen
Runtime: 90 minutes
I get it. It’s a clip show.
Saw 3D was one blow to my Halloween spirit I would sooner not have taken.
Let me say off the bat that they sent the wrong guy to this movie. Your enjoyment of it presumably hinges on your appreciation of prior Saw installments, and the series never made a fan of me. However, when the franchise took off I did watch the first two films a couple of times each, searching for hidden dimensions that I had initially missed. Instead, I found that the story actually loses depth with successive viewings. After that, the series got so convoluted and ridiculous that I only glanced at parts three through six with half an eye and ear – no grisly wordplay intended, I assure you.
The now-infamous story had mild potential when in the first Saw a pessimistic madman captures ordinary citizens he judges to be of low moral fiber. He forces them to mutilate themselves and others, often while exposing their shameful secret lives, in order to make a twisted point about not taking life for granted. Of course, the real promise of the film is watching these ghastly things happen to people. In the first film, the big question was “Will he really saw off his own foot to save his life?” Now that’s a question with some potential for suspense, poorly executed as even that film was. As the series progressed, the prevalence of increasingly improbable Rube-Goldberg traps grew beyond absurdity to new horizons, perhaps requiring the invention of new words for absurdity. It was never an original concept, but it did have a novel spin. If only it could have stuck to its own rules. The only thing that remains consistent throughout are the brain-dead puns offered as clues to allow the various police and civilians unravel the paper-thin secrets of Jigsaw’s plan. It plays like Frank Gorshin’s Riddler on a very bad day. Incidentally, one of the main morals of this film is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Thanks, Mister Saw, for saving something that profound for your final bow. At this point, I began reflecting on the Jigsaw character’s potential to reinforce more positive ideas, such as “Get plenty of sunshine,” and “Drink lots of fluids.” Actually, those might work well in a Saw film.
Each film ties into the others with a vague plotline revealing the complexity and scale of the killer’s plan, even following his death. Tobin Bell, now known to the world as Jigsaw, is a very creepy and entertaining character actor, but his diminishing presence really hobbles the last few films. Naturally, he has accomplices, and after a while the big twist of each sequel had to do with revealing the next major character who’s actually been part of the plan all along. If you guess the mastermind behind Saw 3D, which you will, get someone else to give you a quarter. I already spent honest dollars on this travesty. 3D dollars, mind you. I didn’t even like Avatar in 3D. What on earth was I thinking when I tried my luck on this?
I really let Paranormal Activity 2 have it last week, because I had just a shred of hope that it might improve on the original. I had no such expectation of Saw 3D, but I thought it might be just a bit more entertaining. It is not even worth getting indignant about. The pattern of unmotivated flashbacks in every scene really got on my nerves until I realized that the film is primarily a “best-of” compilation, allowing viewers to watch their favorite guttings, slicings, and spillings. Another thing I notice, now that I consider it, is that copious blood loss never slows anyone down in these films. I hate that.
I give this film a wee nod for trying to satirize itself. One of the main plot threads involves Jigsaw’s status as a controversial media sensation, on which a number of individuals are trying to cash in. The only sensible angle on the whole thing is presented by a character whom everyone else ignores, but with whom I happen to agree. People who have survived horrific ordeals at the hands of others do not invariably gain a helpful perspective on life. Ennobling sociopaths and torturers does not help the world one bit, and we should be able to appreciate life without having to pry out our own skulls with a chisel. Rather than explore this fresh idea, the film dismisses it in short order. Instead, the story turns out to be a many-layered revenge story having little to do with the governing principles of Saw.
For the record, I have seldom seen such a pack of zeroes as this cast. There is hardly one worth mentioning. I am glad they scared up Tobin Bell for a cameo, and I confess to enjoying Lieutenant Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), our new primary villain, more than usual. He would make a good Maniac Cop, loath as I am to suggest a remake of one of my favorite slashers. That’s the thing, folks. There are plenty of fun, watchable horror films, many of them quite terrifying and even graphically violent. But shoveling raw meat down the throats of an audience is not the same as entertaining them. In the absence of fun characters, real suspense, or even a plot twist that doesn’t cross your mind in the film’s first minute, you will be left not rattled, not spooked, not amused, but simply bored.
If you just want to see people’s skin peeled off, or watch them get pulled apart like goop-filled puppets, knock yourself out. It’s not for me. I plan to treat myself to one of my Halloween favorites, the classic Vincent Price caper Theatre Of Blood, from which these films seem to have borrowed extensively, but which manages to be lots of gruesome fun with some great performances to boot.