Review: Saw 3D


The Saw series has long been considered “critic-proof”. They’re not screened for critics. Those who follow the films don’t have any interest in what the critics have to say, and those who do read reviews generally don’t need to be told that the films are awful.

And yet, here we are. Let’s try and make the best of this.

The Saw series has long been considered “critic-proof”. They're not screened for critics. Those who follow the films don't have any interest in what the critics have to say, and those who do read reviews generally don't need to be told that the films are awful.

And yet, here we are. Let's try and make the best of this.{{page_break}}

In the interest of full disclosure, I've only seen the first and fourth of the Saw films. The first I found to be decent enough for what it was, but Saw IV is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Without a doubt, it was one of the most unbearable viewing experiences I've endured in my time as a cinephile. Not because of its violence, but due to the horribly abrasive, annoying nature of the editing and sound design. It's understandable, then, that I set the bar pretty dang low for Saw 3D. The film manages to half-heartedly limp over the bar — it's still a piece of junk, but it isn't nearly as bad as Saw IV.

Walking into a Saw sequel without any knowledge of the previous incarnation is a lot like reading a Mary Worth strip. Much of its time is spent flashing back to previous installments in order to explain what's happening on screen, but the film is so steeped in its own mythology that doing so is a fruitless endeavor. Thankfully 3D is far less guilty of this than IV, and for the most part I was able to follow the story without trouble. That is the extent of my endorsement: “Saw 3D: It makes a decent amount of sense for a sixth sequel”. Lionsgate, feel free to plaster that blurb onto the DVD cover.

The film's main asset is that about half of its runtime focuses on a self-contained story about a Jigsaw-surviving self help guru. This plot thread sucks about as much as anything else in Saw 3D, but I appreciated that it was accessible to those who aren't mired in the mythology of the series. The rest of the story is the usual soap opera-flavored police-procedural flashback-twisty runaround. Following in the footsteps of other supposedly “final” franchise horror films, none of it feels particularly like a finale until a twist at the end that was mostly outside of my comprehension. I do know that it culls back to the original Saw, but I haven't seen that movie in six years. Please forgive me if I'm a bit fuzzy on the details. In any case, Cary Elwes comes back, and at least this isn't as embarrassing for him as Georgia Rule.

Sorry, I just wanted an excuse to mention Georgia Rule.

Stylistically, this film is mostly indistinguishable from its brown and grimy predecessors. It's by the same director as Saw IV, but luckily for all of us he's dialed down the obnoxious white-flash cuts and ”X-treme” whooshing camera work. Seriously, though: camera movements should never make a sound. If you have a fast-forwarded pan in your movie and you fit it with some loud “WHOORSH” foley, you have effectively made your film worse. Whether it's in a good movie or a bad one, this kind of foley makes me shake my head and frown.

The worst thing about the Saw films is that they're neither smart nor fun. If you're going to make an over-the-top gorefest, either have a brain or don't take yourself so damn seriously. When Saw 3D does attempt to be funny, it's mostly perverse, childish Michael Bay-style hatefulness. The worst scene occurs when a female character has a nightmare that she's going to be murdered by Hoffman (this week's pseudo-Jigsaw). For some reason she dreams herself in her saucy, skimpy sleep getup, and you get to see her breasts rip out of her shirt when she gets splattered. This is the perfect example of the teenage boy mindset behind the Saw series.

I did see this film in 3D. It looked fine, certainly better than the post-converted abominations, but what does it matter? I just want this stupid gimmick to go away already. It's nothing more than an excuse to wring more money out of audiences, and it's done nothing to improve the quality of any film I've seen. 3D sucks, Saw sucks, Saw 3D sucks, I'm out!

Overall Score: 4.0 – Terrible. (4s are terrible in many ways. They’re bad enough that even diehard fans of its genre, director, or cast still probably won’t enjoy it at all, and everyone else will leave the theater incredibly angry. Not only are these not worth renting, you should even change the TV channel on them in the future.)

Saw 3D, like many of its predecessors, is simply pretending to be a real movie. It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and we can only hope that this really is “The Final Chapter”.