Saw: The Final Chapter – DVD Review

Love it or hate it, there really hasn’t been anything in history quite like Saw. Fans have been treated to a new entry in the Saw franchise nearly every year since 2004, when the original movie shocked audiences with that last great twist. The franchise has some of the most loyal fans and some of the most scathing critics. While the critics weren’t given early screenings, the fans came back every year hungry for more. Ready to immerse themselves in the story, the flashbacks, the traps, the gore, Saw is the ultimate in escapism.

Fans were disbelieving when it was reported that this film would be the absolute final in the series. I was disbelieving as well. After all, haven’t the last few Saw films been reported as the last? But after actually seeing Saw: 3D (otherwise known as Saw VII, or Saw: The Final Chapter), as a long-time supporter and fan of the Saw franchise I’m glad it’s the last one.

In the final installment, John Kramer’s wife Jill is still battling for control over his legacy with Detective Hoffman, John’s deranged protégé. Jill is locked in a holding cell which police try to track down Hoffman, who is out planning and executing traps for unsuspecting sinners including author Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery). Dagen published a book about surviving one of Jigsaw’s traps, but his whole shtick is a well-contrived lie that will put everyone around him in danger. He is placed in a long maze that will have him trying (and ultimately failing) to save his friends.

It has been long teased that Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) from the first Saw film will show up in one of the sequels, and he finally makes an appearance. But the actor is so far removed from how fans see him (or as I see him always, as Westley from The Princess Bride), his acting so wooden, and his scenes so few that his presence is almost a joke even after the series’ final twist is revealed. It gives him a much bigger role in Jigsaw’s plan but still doesn’t resonate like it ought to.

John Kramer may have died in Saw III, but his legacy has certainly lived on. The traps are still gruesome, each one still has an interesting story behind the reason why a certain character has been placed there. But after seven films we’re a little desensitized.

The body count in Saw: The Final Chapter may be the highest ever but the traps seem a little less memorable. One at the beginning of the movie is in a glass box in public view and a crowd gathers to gawk at the spectacle. Unable to turn away they take pictures with their cell phones. Three people are placed in this trap, but only one dies. The other two have no other mention in the film.

A word must be said about the blood as well. Every other Saw movie does its best to be realistic, raw, gritty, and revolting. The blood is usually a reddish brown, as though it had been sitting for days already. The body parts and internal organs that are flung around onscreen are usually incredibly gross and gag-inducing. Saw: The Final Chapter, for some reason, opted to use watery, magenta colored blood. The drastic contrast in color, from the dank, decrepit, gray interiors of the usual Saw surroundings to this bright and cheery hot pink blood is almost laughable.

True fans of the franchise aren’t there for the blood and guts alone, but also for the twisting, turning storyline. Even though The Final Chapter was written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (no strangers to the series), the writing is sloppy and the actors execute it poorly. There are flashbacks and dream sequences, random kills for no apparent reason and even a mass-killing by automatic machine gun. It’s unlike a Saw movie in the purest sense in an extreme way.

The Saw series deserves an ending worthy of the journey that we’ve all been on for the past seven years. We’ve invested so much into these characters and we’ve escaped our own realities and our own sins to watch them suffer for theirs. Saw: The Final Chapter is still a must-see for a fan of the franchise. Every puzzle does have to come to an end; this could have been so much more satisfying.

The theatrical version of the movie was shot with 3D cameras, it wasn’t converted after the fact, so there are lots of effects that don’t translate as well in 2D. Aside from the standard blood and weapons of torture being thrown at the screen, there are a lot of interesting dimensional shots that would have been nice to experience in 3D. That being said, the Saw films are usually gritty in a more traditional Grindhouse style, so clarity doesn’t matter as much. For a Saw film on DVD, this one looks and sounds on par with the rest of the series.

Producer’s Audio Commentary with Oren Koules, Peter Block, and Mark Burg – Definitely the more boring of the two commentaries, these three producers talk a lot about setting up certain shots, how they did certain effects and when prosthetics were used.

Writer’s Audio Commentary with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan – These two have all of the interesting stories about how the film was originally written and then re-edited. Perhaps the most exciting story they tell is in regards to the trap in the glass and what was originally in store for the two survivors. They talk about this fairly early in the commentary so you won’t have to listen long. But watch the movie FIRST, then listen to this commentary. They tend to spoil things.

Deleted and Extended Scenes – There are 6 total, and most of them are extended scenes. The ones worth a watch are the first four, which feature an extended opening scene with Doctor Gordon, and a deleted scene with Dr. Gordon and Bobby Degan.

Music Videos

Karnivool “Goliath”

Kopek – “Cocaine Chest Pains”

Dir En Gray – “Hagesha To, Kono Shakunetsu No Yami”

Danko Jones – “Fall of Regret”

Theatrical Trailer

Previews: The entire Saw series on Blu-Ray, The Last Exorcism, Buried, Fearnet HD, Epix

As a whole, the Saw series is still one of my favorite horror franchises of all time. It’s also one of the most financially successful horror franchises of all time. Of all of the sequels, this one seems like it was quickly slapped together to make yearly release date as opposed to being a final chapter in an epic horror novel. Saw: The Final Chapter should have gone out with a much bigger bang but, like many franchises, goes out on a whimper instead.

Lionsgate presents Saw: The Final Chapter. Directed by: Kevin Greutert. Starring: Tobin Bell, Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flannery. Written by: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: Unrated (DVD), R (Theatrical). Released on DVD and Blu-ray: January 25, 2011.

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