If a tree makes a yearly habit of telling a really convoluted, gory,incomprehensible story in the woods and no one thinks it's any good,does it get to tell the sequel next year?
It does if that tree is not really a tree but rather a series ofmovies named after the tree's archrival: the Saw franchise.I've long wondered how horror series like Friday the 13th andNightmare on Elm Street kept going long, long, oh so very longafter they'd produced anything worth watching. Seven Saws deep,I still have no goddamn clue.
For reference, there are now as many Saws as Star Warsmovies, including that animated one that wasn't a fraction as good asthe show on Cartoon Network. If The Hobbit ever makes it out ofdevelopment alive, there will be as many Saws as Lord of theRings plus Godfathers combined. Chew on that next timeyou're wondering whether the basic nature of humanity is good. Chancesare we as a species are pretty close to Saw 3D: The FinalChapter: generally crummy, but sometimes we come through in theend.
With serial killer Costas Mandylor hunting her down, Jigsaw widowBetsy Russell goes to detective Chad Donella for protection.Meanwhile, Jigsaw survivor Sean Patrick Flanery hits the talk showcircuit, exploiting his experience for fame and cash.
This does not escape Mandylor's attention. As he continues to pursueRussell by killing some dudes, he also kidnaps Flanery and puts himthrough a series of gruesome tests. Each failure will cost the life ofone of Flanery's publicity crew--and, eventually, his wife--unlessDonella can crack the case first.
Now in its seventh entry, the Saw franchise has come to beknown for a few key signifiers. The grimy sets and mechanical trapsthat look like if The Legend of Zelda had an Industrial Temple.The blood and guts and self-inflicted torture. The shamelessflashbacks and video clips that keep original Jigsaw Tobin Bellonscreen even though he's been dead for several movies now. Andperhaps most distinctive of all, an utter and crippling incompetence.
Saw 3D hits all these notes but the total incompetence part.This is kind of amazing, because it's got the same writers as the lastthree Saws (Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan), and those filmsare so much garbage that if you watch them your TV will explode in ahail of eggshells, used coffee grounds, and soggy cabbage.
For a while, Saw 3D threatens to go the same route. It takessome time for director Kevin Greutert to bring its threads together asthe story expands its vast mythology into bold new realms of NobodyGives a Damn. Some people are killed in mildly creative andexcessively gross ways, but since they're introduced moments beforebeing sprayed across a junkyard, there's no real clue where this isgoing. Other than poorly. And with no idea how to use the whole 3Dthing.
Saw gets its act together in the second half. Plots tietogether. Things make sense. Your brain quits going "Who shot who inthe what now?" and is freed up to start going "Oh, nasty." It becomeswatchable, except for the parts where you have to cover your eyes.
Not great. Not an experience so revelatory your jaw will drop sobone-shatteringly hard that you yourself will look like a Sawvictim. But watchable. By the lax standards of the last few movies,that's a big step up.
Then, it goes wild card.
Saw is supposed to be the end of the series. To theircredit, Melton and Dunstan don't hold back, joyfully destroying themythology they've taken so long to construct. There remains, asalways, the question of who cares, but fans who've followed along tothis point will get answers, closure, and a fat new twist. As a singlefilm, Saw kind of sucks. Compared to other horrorfranchises, however, it's a pretty fine capper.