Saw 3D (2010)

Even if, as the advertising campaign proclaims, Saw 3D is to be the last hurrah of the wildly repetitive torture porn franchise, how long until some idiot pitches a reboot? There is literally no ground left to cover story-wise, and it’s hard to imagine special effects advancing enough to motivate a remake since what was on screen tonight was already more than sufficient to have me choking on my popcorn. But if there’s a dollar to be made, I’m sure someone will find a reason.

"I landed on my keys!"

The story: I confess I’ve missed a few entries in the Saw series. I know I watched the first one (which was quite good) and the second one (which was not), and even the third one (which made me wish I was in one of Jigsaw’s games). I may have seen bits and pieces of the fourth one, but I definitely never got around to five or six. So there were significant gaps in my knowledge of the canon going into the seventh installment. Somehow I had a feeling my moviegoing experience wouldn’t suffer much as a result.

If you’re entering the series for the first time – congrats, by the way, on waking up from that coma – you should probably stop reading and rent the original. But here’s the gist of every movie so far: a dying man, dubbed the Jigsaw Killer by the police, decided that people didn’t appreciate their lives. He started devising intricate “games”, wherein certain people who really pissed him off would face a life or death choice, usually requiring them to mutilate themselves or others to survive. In one of the movies he actually died, but let’s just say he was a really skilled estate planner so the good work continues.

Saw 3D starts with a fairly intense intro featuring just such a game. After that we track back to a scene that ended an earlier movie: Detective Hoffman, who had been working with/for/as Jigsaw, finds himself the victim of another “game over” moment, orchestrated by the original Jigsaw’s widow, Jill. He survives her trap by simply ripping his fatal headgear off before it tears his face apart. Why others didn’t think of that isn’t really something you’re supposed to wonder so just stop ruining the movie magic, okay? Jill momentarily escapes but now the enraged Hoffman is after her, so she seeks help from the cops.

While the coppers try to protect Jill and decipher Hoffman’s latest gruesome masterpieces, a second story unfolds. It follows a Jigsaw survivor played by Sean Patrick Flannery, whose face mercifully seems to have deflated to something resembling normal since his Botox-fueled turn in Boondock Saints II. His injuries are a good deal less severe than most of Jigsaw’s victims, but that doesn’t stop him from making a boatload of cash writing and promoting a book about his nightmarish ordeal. Jigsaw does not like hastily prepared autobiographies.

"I didn't even read the instruction manual."

Biggest letdown: Part of what made the original Saw so compelling was that as I watched I had to admit I’d be stumped (ha!) by the predicaments Jigsaw put his contestants in. When you’re shackled to a wall, there isn’t a lot of room to doubt the impossibility of escape.

By this point in the series, however, the diabolical mechanisms have grown to such ridiculously elaborate proportions that I found myself mentally noting the more obvious ways to get out of each one. Granted, if ever faced with a real life-or-death situation I would shit my pants and cry myself to death long before any external forces had a chance to do me in. Nevertheless, the audience has to be shown at least a little evidence that the characters have no recourse other than what their videotaped instructions demand or the whole movie loses its impact.

One crucial scene involves a series of people stuck in mechanized traps, but they all have an unrestrained person helping out. One lady has the key to her device tied to a fishhook in her stomach. (No, there is not enough time to poop it out, but good try.) A bunch of spikes will soon give her all kinds of facial piercings and, making matters worse, the trap advances faster every time she screams. Helper guy’s solution is to hold his hand over her mouth, but he has to take it away to perform each agonizing yank, so she’s pretty much fucked. My solution? Grab one of the many pieces of wood or pipe lying around and knock her noisy ass out so you can work in peace. Without much thought you too will be able to poke holes in puzzles that would have been pretty much airtight in the original.

Seriously dude, I can see the exposed gears from here. Jam something in there and have a cup of tea.

Why you should watch: The return of Cary Elwes! Elwes was by far the classiest actor to grace the franchise and I always wondered if he made it to safety after (most of him) escaped Jigsaw’s first puzzle. His pedigree as the original object of Jigsaw’s rage sets him up perfectly as perhaps the only character with sufficient stature to challenge the crafty killer’s indomitable will.

Also, a bunch of people get horrifically impaled, shredded, or impaled then shredded, so that’s something. The 3D is more or less wasted but if having guts fly at your face is your thing, welcome to the promised land.

"I should have taken Home Ec!"

Memorable Moment: For me the highlight was the opening sequence, even though  a good chunk of it was given away in the trailers. The players in this game don’t have anything to do with the main storyline, but the tension was pretty high and for a moment I remembered what made me enjoy the first Saw so much. I also really liked that it takes place in public. Voyeuristically watching people on screen as they voyeuristically watch someone get cut in half was both mildly amusing and mildly disturbing.

Choice quote: “How many bodies?” “Enough pieces to make four.”

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