The seventh entry in this hugely successful horror franchise makes no qualms about conceding it’s all about the spectacle. While being the first installment to succumb to Hollywood’s own torturous burden of 3D, Lionsgate was quick to amend its initial announcement that this would be the last of the series, acquiescing that if it turned enough of a profit there may yet be an eighth. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that this will likely be the case as to date every one of these gory, convoluted serial killer thrillers has more than recouped its initial investment.
By this stage it is fair to assume that any viewer coming to the Saw franchise cold is a more willing masochist than any of Jigsaw’s innumerable victims. The plot makes not a lick of sense, even for the longest suffering of us who have come along for the ride thus far, be it willingly or unwillingly. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is long gone, having succumbed to cancer at the end of part III, but his legacy lives on thanks to the psychotic interventions of his widow, Jill (Betsy Russell) and Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). As they battle for supremacy, a group of “Jigsaw survivors” emerges, spearheaded by the courageous and charismatic Dr. Bobby Dagan (Sean Patrick Flannery). However, Dagan soon finds himself at the centre of a new game, and must survive a number of absurdly horrific ordeals to save the lives of those who have helped make him a media darling.
Saw 3D is definitely not the worst film in the series, and while it never comes close to recapturing the simplicity and effectiveness of the original, it at least attempts to avoid the convoluted rehashing of past events that made episodes IV-VI so incomprehensible. That said, the film’s biggest narrative failing is an attempt to reconnect with its roots by reintroducing original survivor Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes). He is not a major player this time out, but his very existence should be enough of a flag to forewarn viewers that plot coherence will again be the film’s biggest victim.
But Saw hasn’t been about the story for years, these films are all about the kills – elaborate yet barbaric traps that force selfish and amoral members of society to inflict pain on themselves and their loved ones to earn redemption. In this respect, Saw 3D delivers, although the gleeful sadism and ungratifying redundancy of it all has started to become troubling. Perhaps Saw VIII will see Jigsaw punishing his own fanbase for continuing to pay good money for such low-grade titillation.