Although movies more interested in gore than scares existed way before the 21st century, it was a little film called Saw back in 2004 that brought it to the forefront of the film industry, turning voyeurism of the most questionable kind into a commercial cinematic product.
The type of film Saw, its sequels, and other such films as Hostel 1 & 2 were dubbed as “torture porn,” a term as blunt as it is perverse. Many other films have tried and failed to be as successful as the Saw series but for whatever reason this franchise has managed to make a ton of money at the box office on very small budgets.
Six movies have already been and gone and now we arrive at the seventh and presumably/hopefully last installment entitled Saw 3D. With an added dimension of gore and terror, if nothing else this one should be the more thrilling experience of all the films.
The plot of Saw 3D (not that it matters a great deal to its target audience) follows on from the events of the last one where Jigsaw’s protégé, Detective Hoffman, is continuing the late Jigsaw’s work. We specifically follow Bobby, a man who has become rich and famous by selling his story of how he survived one of Jigsaw’s grizzly games. He runs a support group for other survivors, one member of which is a character making their first appearance since the first film (I won’t spoil it for you). But even after surviving Jigsaw’s game, Bobby is kidnapped and placed in another game in which he has to help save the various different people closest, including his devoted wife who helped him get over his first ordeal.
In a lot of ways Saw 3D is successful in what it’s trying to do, delivering the sort of blood-filled torture scenes fans of the franchise lay down their money to see each and everytime but without just retreading old ground (read: the traps are better!). There’s a strong sense that with each consecutive movie ‘the filmmakers are always trying to top the previous attempt: how gory, how disgusting and how shocking can we make this next trap is the basic line of thinking with this franchise and Saw 3D is no different. From an opening set piece involving not one but three saws and having to choose between friendship and “love,” to an extremely creative trap involving having to pull a fishhook out of someone’s throat while stopping them from making too much noise. Both of those and many others will be the subject of much discussion post-credits.
The word “enjoyment” may not be the best one describe Saw 3D or any of the rest of the franchise but there’s certainly a morbid curiosity factor at play that evidently keeps people going to see this franchise. With these types of movies we get to watch this horrible stuff involved and perhaps even get some entertainment out of without actually experiencing these sorts of situations in real life. It’s a staple reason why horror movies keep bringing audiences back time and time again.
It should be noted that despite Saw 3D not being quite as bad as it could have been, that is ultimately in comparison to the other film’s in the franchise. Judged separately and as a whole it’s sloppily put together as far as what scenes and pieces of information are inserted where, such as several ham-fisted flashback sequences that grind the film to a halt and are blatantly put in there to bluntly illustrate the plot/character point at hand. Most of what they show you in flashback form isn’t necessary as we could have worked them out on our own. They’re only really there to give the illusion that there’s a whole lot more to all this than just people being tortured.
Having said that one of the things that sets the Saw franchise apart from other similar films is the fact that at least it makes an attempt to make the audience think and try and work out what’s going on, even if it fails 90% of the time. I’ll take this over the mindless Hostel films any old day of the week.
The big sell this time around is the 3D aspect. You’d think with the nature of these films involving various different lethal devices and whatnot that the series would benefit from that extra dimension. However, as with most 3D movies, it doesn’t really add to the experience in any way and in fact detracts from it.
The seventh Saw film, with the way it’s structured and particularly how it ends, there’s certainly a sense that this really is the last we’ll see of Jigsaw and his deadly moralistic games. However, cash is king in Hollywood and if this one makes enough money then you can be sure they’ll at least try to make more.
As it is Saw 3D is definitely one of the better films of the franchise, not least because it’s one of the best paced ones and it at least holds you attention as you hang on waiting to find out what happens. It’s ultimately only really for those who like the other Saw movies as nothing really happens that suddenly makes it standalone. While it might not be unwatchable I can’t be the only one who hopes they put this franchise to bed for good, am I?