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SAW 3D - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 29 October 2010]

Seven years in the making, the Saw franchise has been built upon intricate plotting with overlapping story elements in between sequels, set against harsh and brutal industrial-type environments. The cruel and explicit nature of the series' violence helped to promulgate the absurd "torture porn" label which proselytizers tended to nance about throughout the better part of the 2000's. Saw 3D, the seventh and final installment, is not only a worthy successor to the films that have come before, but it serves as a highly satisfying coda to the high-mileage series.

Where 2009's Saw VI sought to quantify the motivations of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), aka Jigsaw, and bring his story to a full closure, Saw 3D's marching orders are to provide a denouement and tie up loose ends. And it does so with aplomb. In the space of the first five minutes, we find out that Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), whom we hadn't seen since he sawed off his own foot to escape the perils of the first film, did survive and make it to safety. And Jigsaw accomplice Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has a severe bone to pick with Jigsaw widow Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) after that business with the reverse bear trap at the end of Saw VI, leaving his face looking like Picasso drew him.

But the central plot of Saw 3D has to do with one Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a self-help guru who has written a bestseller entitled Survive, detailing his long-ago escape from a Jigsaw trap. Although Hoffman is now on the lam, since Jill has identified him as Jigsaw's successor in exchange for amnesty for her potential collusion, he's not above initiating a new Jigsaw-style "game" for Dagen and his immediate circle of enablers. Meanwhile, he also makes short work of a white supremacist (an unrecognizable Chester Bennington of Linkin Park) and his surly cohorts. "Billy" the puppet, Jigsaw's original mascot and taunter from previous films, gets a good bit of screen time again, which is not a bad thing; he always was a delightfully creepy little bastard.

Although Tobin Bell again receives top billing, he probably receives the least amount of screen time in this installment, and a good portion of that is pre-existing clips from earlier films. There is, however, a clever new "flashback" scene with him, at a book signing where fans fawn over Dagen and his book. Jigsaw, sporting casual attire and a baseball cap, anonymously approaches and engages the author with some passive-aggressive insinuations about his book and, by extension, his integrity. It's a smartly written scene which only foreshadows a later plot development.

Fans who enjoyed Saw VI's swift pacing and deft storytelling will appreciate that the creative nucleus of director Kevin Greutert and scripters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are onboard again. Which means that while Dogan is busy trying to rescue his people from their respective traps (with time a-countin' down!), we switch back and forth from that task to whatever guns-drawn police action is going down as the resourceful Detective Gibson (Chad Donella) attempts to track down the fugitive Hoffman. And while the gimmick of 3D, even the current and innovative RealD Cinema process, is rapidly becoming both old-hat and pricey-ticket, the in-your-face gags in Saw 3D are diabolically clever and grisly fun.

As burgeoning Jigsaw protege Amanda Young, Shawnee Smith has appeared in every Saw installment, whether in newly-filmed scenes or archival footage, except this one. That's a curious omission. But make no mistake, with both Amanda and Jigsaw out of the picture for the here-and-now narrative, this is largely Hoffman's movie. He lays low while he can, then goes into full-on Jason Voorhees mode when he must, laying waste to countless cops and colleagues after his cover has been blown. And with Jill Tuck now in protective custody, Hoffman is still hellbound in exacting revenge upon her. It would not be an overstatement to say that this film is Costas Mandylor's finest hour--well, hour and a half--of the series.

Let's twist again like we did last October. Each Saw movie, consistently released the weekend before Halloween each time, contains not only plot twists that may drop the jaw, but often also "answers" to ambiguous scenes in earlier sequels. Does this film continue that tradition? That's a silly-assed question. There's a lot to spoil, but instead of doing that, I'll only mention the scene in Saw V where Hoffman received the note saying "I Know Who You Are." A nice revelation awaits, folks. Other, similar anecdotes from earlier sequels figure into the surprise conclusion. There's been a lot of intentional misdirection in the promotion of the series, ranging from Saw III's Jigsaw tagline, "Hello, America; I want to play a game," to the gigantic skyscraper being built in Jigsaw's likeness on Saw 3D's posters. Call all that a prank, or just note it as marketing savvy; just don't expect any of it to come true in this picture. That said, the major twist ending is one that the consummate Saw fan will absolutely relish.

By eschewing the option of naming this installment something more practical like Saw VII: 3D, as well as pussy-footing around the proposed Saw 3D: The Final Chapter add-on tag you see on some advertisements, it seems that the makers want to keep a foot in the door in case there's a demand for an eighth film. And such a film would be a mistake. Saw 3D finishes everything off too perfectly, too deliciously. To anyone proposing an eighth Saw, I'll direct you to line from a key character during this movie's conclusion: "I don't think so."

'SAW 3D' A Film by Kevin Greutert
Written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. Directed by Kevin Greutert.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]


YEAR: 2010



RUN TIME 91 minutes (US)