Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

Year: 2010
Production Co: Twisted Pictures
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Kevin Gruetert
Producer: Mark Burg/Gregg Hoffman/Oren Koules
Writer: Marcus Dunstan/Patrick Melton
Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Chad Donella, Betsey Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flannery

After a very consistent tone and style. there is a kind of departure in this final (ostensibly so, anyway,a complete reboot is coming soon as I write this) instalment of the Saw franchise.

Even though the factory, red palatte and dark, steamy shadows still make up the bulk of the movie, returning director Kevin Grutert does two things differently. First of all, he kind of disappointingly gives in to the temptation to wrangle cheap 3D tricks like we saw back in the green and red glasses era, of knife points and spikes inching closer to the camera. After watching the other films, there's aloso a slightly brighter and redder aspect to the cinematography, as if he wanted to make it seem bloodier than it really is.

Second, he seems to want to throw a thematic cat amongst the pigeons with the opening shot. Instead of the introductory trap being set in some dark, greasy, badly-lit room in Jigsaw's factory it's in a huge glass box in the middle of a busy shopping district. Two men and a woman wake up chained to the intricate device while a robotic Billy puppet (where did Kramer/Hoffman get them all from?) wheels out on a tricycle to give them their assignment.

As the horrified crowd that's gathered looks on, he tells the two men that the girl has been cheating on them with each other, and that they can fight it out to decide who gets to keep her while the other dies, or decide to let her die instead.

With the cops trying to break in through the impervious glass, blood and intestines fly and we're back to the main story. Kramer's former wife Jill (Betsey Russell) approaches detective Gibson (Chad Donella) to tell him Hoffman is behind all the recent killings and that she wants the protection of the cops. Gibson is hard nosed but believes her, mistrustful of Hoffman ever since an incident we see later in the film through a flashback, agreeing to let her help find him while keeping her locked in a cell, safe.

Meanwhile Hoffman traps a gang of thugs in the junkyard that's revealed to be his new hideout, trying to incriminate Jill with their deaths by using the jawtrap he escaped from at the end of the last film.

We also meet Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery), a succeful author and cheesy self-help guru who's become rich and popular thanks to his book telling all abouth how he survived the Jigsaw killer.

Of course, only he and a few of his inner circle (not including his beautiful and trusting wife) know the whole thing is a get rich quick sham. So when Hoffman takes Bobby and sets him on his own series of gruesome tests, it's people like his publisher, publicist and manager who find themselves stabbed through the eyeballs with spikes and torn apart by giant fish hooks. And all the while he's watching his wife on the video monitors, chained to the floor by the neck and imagining the horrible fate that awaits her if he doesn't complete the maze in time.

Hoffman has also been sending Gibson cryptic clues about where Bobby's game is being held, offering the stop it all if he gives Jill up, but Gibson and his colleagues crack it seemingly just in the nick of time, finding the remains of the skinheads' torture and killings outside.

But in the first twist that sets the climax in motion, they burst into Hoffman's command centre of video feeds to find the corpse of one of the skinheads instead. Too late they realise Hoffman has put the body where he usually sits and hidden in the body bag they've now taken away to headquarters – where Jill is holed up in fear.

To reveal whether Hoffman gets Jill would be too big a spoiler, as would the final reveal of the entire Saw story. When Hoffman finally relaxes, thinking he's in the clear and all his secrets are safe, not one but three figures wearing dark coats and pig-faced masks set upon him, their leader a familiar face that represents the final step of how even in death Kramer was ahead of everyone, including those we think have been his closest accomplices.

I watched the entire series one after the other over the course of a week, several years after the last one came out. I'd seen a couple of them and not in the right order, so I knew it was a continuing mini-series about 10 hours long, and decided to digest it all as it was intended, finding out who everyone was and what they had to do with John Kramer at the pace the writers intended.

The most interesting thing is that it seems to have been shepherded creatively by the producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg (Gregg Hoffman having passed away not long after the second film). There's no single auteur responsible for the whole thing – director Darren Lynn Bousman worked with original writer Leigh Whannell on the second and third films, then writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan took over, after which Bousman handed the reigns to production designer David Hackl and editor Kevin Gruetert.

Even though Whannell and partner James Wan made the first film and established the aesthetic (filthy water, dank metal chambers, dirty blood) that soon took over the horror genre, I doubt back in 2004 they'd been thinking about or planning Amanda's working with Jigsaw, Hoffman, Jill or any of the other characters. The first film was developed off the back of a short they presented to Lionsgate to showcase the creative approach they intended to take, everything in it (like the police presence and Jigsaw's backstory) expanded to make a movie.

Everything that came later in the story was partly from Whannell and partly from Dunstan and Melton. There wasn't even a single directorial vision, but someone at the centre of it all had to make sure scripts and designs adhered to what had worked, and even though it's not the greatest horror film, the first movie was certainly a reset moment in the genre. From there, subsequent films showcased something genre films frequently leave as a secondary consideration; the writing of an actual story.

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