It was a good run. Since the original Saw, a sequel every year for six years. Each trying—with varying degrees of success—to serialize a single labyrinthine story. I applaud the effort.
But the relentless pace took a toll. Without no overarching vision, each sequel bolted more backstory and continuity onto the first film’s premise. Reluctant to deviate from the original formula, the sequels resorted to ever more preposterous twists to surprise viewers.
And now the end. The plot concerns Bobby, played by Sean Patrick Flanery, who purports to have survived one of Jigsaw’s traps and now sits atop a lucrative self-help empire. Of course, he’s lying, and soon finds himself forced through a series of actual Jigsaw trials. These prove forgettable save the inane finale.
In a recreation of Bobby’s make-believe torment. Two chains descend from the ceiling attached to pulleys. At the end of each chain, a meat hook. Bobby must attach the hooks to his chest, piercing his pectoral muscles, then leverage the chains to pull himself up via the pulleys to reach a key necessary to save his wife from a gruesome fate.
Except it makes no sense. In a glaring plot hole, there’s no reason Bobby couldn’t just fasten the hooks to the chain itself, hook the resulting loops under his arms as a harness, then pull himself up unharmed.
A side story sees Cary Elwes return as Dr. Gordon, his character last seen at the end of the original film. In what I’ll chalk up to post-production edits, the film botches what should have been a surprise reveal, by opening the film at the end of part one and following Gordon as he crawls in search of help.
It’s not all bad. In a memorable, albeit disconnect set piece, a gang of skinheads awakens to find themselves in one of Jigsaw’s traps. The gang leader sits shirtless, his back and arms glued to the driver’s seat of a jacked-up muscle car. A fellow member lies trapped below the raised wheel. Another member stands bound behind the car, chains attaching his chin and arms to the car’s rear axle. A fourth member stands bound a short distance ahead of the car.
As Jigsaw explains, the leader has thirty seconds to tear himself free before jacks collapse, crushing the member beneath and dismembering the member behind as the car plows into the member in front.
Indeed, as a showcase for elaborate death traps, the franchise still delivers. This entry’s proffers some of the franchise’s most brutal violence, and the practical effects shine.
But original’s philosophical underpinning—suffering as a therapeutic tool—is gone. Jigsaw’s schemes and network of accomplices have ballooned to Bond-villain levels. I suspect the producers could have squeezed another two or three sequels before the franchise started losing money, but I’m glad they didn’t. The diminishing budgets would have necessitated CGI effects and thus robbed the series of what little dignity it still had.
I’m of two minds regarding the ending. One could view it as ambiguous and underwhelming. But I prefer to view it as definitive. There is no man behind the curtain. No grand plan. Just studio and marketing execs pumping out Saw “product”. Did I mention they shot this in 3-D?