When it comes to films that can legitimately be called “game-changers,” some are easy to spot well before they take hold. It was easy to see that Avatar had a shot at revolutionizing the way we view movies based on how much hype was generated before its release based purely on its visual style and use of 3D. But with horror films they seem to come out of nowhere; Halloween introduced the world to the “slasher” film that would seemingly define mainstream horror films; made for a miniscule budget, Halloween invented a style of film that would be copied ad nausea ever since.
With a genre seemingly losing touch with anything new or original in America, Saw came out of nowhere in a similar low budget fashion to reshape horror films in the last decade with the invention of the “torture porn” genre of horror films. Marketed shrewdly, it proved to be easily imitated as a number of lesser, low budget films would end up being profitable at the box office. But nothing really compared to the original, which outpaced the imitators both creatively and commercially. But with Saw VI being overshadowed at the box office by Paranormal Activity, Saw 3D seems to be the right film at the right time to say goodbye to the franchise that a short time ago changed American horror films. With the faux documentary approach to the no-budget horror film becoming the new rage, “torture porn” seems to becoming passé in a short amount of time.
This time around we focus on Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a man who has found and fortune by pretending to be a survivor of Jigsaw. Seeing him make a fortune, and a name for himself, as a pretend victim fate has seen to make him an actual victim of the elaborate traps he claimed to have fictionally escaped. Given sixty minutes to save his wife, he has to face tough choices with the people around him as he tries to save their lives. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has long since died but his apprentice Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has kept up the tradition of showing people the error of their ways via gruesome traps. With the police tracking him down, he has one victim in his sights: the former Mrs. Jigsaw, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell). After having gone downhill in the past several films in terms of quality, Saw 3D (also known as Saw VII) does one thing outside of the requisite traps and copious amounts of horror violence: it adds a stronger story to the proceedings than normal.
Using elements from the entire series, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are veterans of the franchise and have an understanding of the mythos of Jigsaw. This isn’t an attempt at trying to recreate the magic of the first, which took Miike’s Audition and placed it alongside an American police procedural, but rather it’s an attempt at closure. The duo, alongside franchise veteran Kevin Greutert, have an understanding of how to properly close the series out and the film’s final moments have a poignancy that many horror franchise finales lack. They’ve completely closed out the series, as opposed to leaving a sliver of hope for another film years down the road, and connect it all to the first film in a way that makes sense. It even brings back Cary Elwes to do so in a nice touch.
It also ups the ante with the traps themselves, admittedly because there isn’t much to be found outside the story and acting. This is a typical genre film and doesn’t do anything to reinvent that wheel. It has an understanding that this isn’t an actor’s film, nor is it one about the story itself. It’s about the traps. The film franchise’s signature is the devices of torture and there’s an increased level of difficulty considering there’s six films in this franchise preceding it, as well as plenty of films outside of the franchise that have raised the bar for horror violence in the genre, but it’s rather inventive in the sort of traps it uses. This isn’t all just how much blood and guts one can put on the screen; some creativity has been put into this and there’s more involved than ever before. The film’s final kill harkens back to the original film, admittedly with a twist, but it feels right.
Neil Young once asked whether it was better to burn out rather than fade away. Saw finds a way to do both, giving one last quality film before the franchise became a relic in its own time.
Director: Kevin Greutert Notable Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery, Cary Elwes Writer(s): Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.