Saw 3D (2010)
By: Julian on November 3, 2010  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Poster Art
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Betsey Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery, Chad Donella, Cary Elwes
Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Country: USA
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I spewed some invective this time two and three years ago when Saw IV and Saw V hit cinemas. Saw VI was a broad improvement, and the most recent instalment, number seven (although it eschews the Roman numerals and is simply titled Saw 3D for its theatrical gimmick; a home video retitling is certain) is cut from the same cloth: it's derivative but gripping and completely watchable, with the exception of a couple of the most gruelling traps the franchise has offered yet. Note the R18+ rating (the first Saw film to be so classified for its cinema run): the movie earns the certification in spades.

This review will proceed on the premise that all reading it are wizened Saw veterans (or, at the very least, have seen the preceding instalments). The movie will be almost incomprehensible to those who haven't. The film begins with a flashback, not of the sixth movie but of the first, as Dr Gordon (Cary Elwes, reprising his role) drags himself out of that dilapidated bathroom and cauterises his stump against a steaming pipe. We leave Dr Gordon and return to the end of Saw VI: villain Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has survived Jigsaw's widow Jill's 'reverse bear trap' and is, for want of a better word, raging. After doing a surprisingly neat stitch-up job on his face, Hoffman races to find Jill. Knowing that Hoffman is still alive and after her, Jill goes to the cops with all she knows, seeking protection and immunity from Internal Affairs Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella). 

Running parallel to this story arc is Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery) peddling his blockbuster autobiography Survive, where he chronicles his triumph over a Jigsaw trap (think Zora Kerova in Cannibal Ferox). His autobio is a self-help tome for other victims (one is forgiven for thinking that Jigsaw's influence has affected, well, pretty much everyone) and it is at one of his rallies that he meets a gravel-voiced Dr Gordon. Before too long, though, Bobby becomes the object of Hoffman's affections...

The most notable thing about Saw 3D (as the producers insist it be called, but watch out for the Saw VII DVD review in a couple of months) is its scope. We're not just thrown into a house with traps - the story is a bit more substantial than that, and fans should really appreciate it. That is certainly not to say Saw 3D skimps on the red stuff, if its classification hasn't told you that already: the film is at times unbearably violent, and a car-based trap featuring four players is particularly unwatchable (I also have a thing against the removal of teeth - my dentist appointment is bound to be put off yet again after this). But it's nice to have a bit more of the media and public fanfare around the Jigsaw phenomenon included here, and that theme is writ large in the opening scene which also proves that, defying expectations, Hoffman has a wicked streak of self-depreciating humour. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, scribes of the franchise since IV, return to author 3D. The performances are hammy across the board, none more so than Chad Donella, aping every scene he's in, although he inexplicably fashions a sympathetic character in the process. Tobin Bell returns for a cameo part, even though he gets top billing on the promotional material.

Technically, Saw 3D is of a pretty high quality: Kevin Greutert, pulled from Paranormal Activity 2 to work on this sequel, does well. But, and this might sound the commercial death knell for Saw 3D, the extra dimension is pretty inconsequential. The odd bit of viscera jumps out, but the 3D is otherwise bland. There are no gimmicks, which means it will play more naturally on home video.

All in all, I'm inclined to report back positively from Saw 3D. See it on 2D if you can - you'll save some cash, the colours won't be dulled by the headwear and you won't look like Harry Potter - but of course that is a mildly ridiculous recommendation to make for a film so titled. Saw fans will receive closure, some nice traps and something a little bit different to boot. As far as 'The Final Chapter' business goes, I'm ready to take a breather after slavishly going to the cinemas every October/November since 2004, but returning to the madness in a few years time already sounds like an attractive prospect. Or maybe even next year.
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