Kevin Greutert | 90 mins | Blu-ray | 1.78:1 | USA / English | 18 / R
Before gangs of youths knock on your door to rob you under threat of violence, as is traditional on Halloween, why not enjoy my thoughts on a now-dead ’00s Halloween staple: the Saw movie.
I say “enjoy” — it’s almost as bad as those greedy kids…
What’s this, the first Saw movie, now in 3D?
So it must be the third Saw movie then, in 3D?
No, not that either.
It’s the seventh, in fact. But it is in 3D, hence the only-slightly-confusing Saw 3D moniker. I guess Saw 7 plus the tagline “see Saw 7 in 3D!” wasn’t considered clear enough.
And to top the stupidity off, I didn’t watch it in 3D, but the 2D prints are still called Saw 3D. What?
I was going to say that’s not even the most stupid thing about the film, but the rest of it isn’t so much stupid as disappointing. The problem is that there are some good ideas, but few are executed as well as they could be or paid off appropriately. The setting for the opening trap — it’s played out very publicly in a shop window — is a marvellous twist on the format. Is this an escalation? Are we going to see Jigsaw playing to the crowd all the time? No. It’s a one off. It doesn’t even have any bearing on the rest of the plot — it simply occurs and is never even mentioned again. That’s appalling.
Likewise, the support group for Jigsaw survivors: nice idea, but they don’t find anywhere to go with it. At least the notion of a fake Jigsaw survivor making a mint out of selling his fake story is an idea that has legs. Not long legs really, but they at least get a decent amount out of it — that is, it’s a set up for the Game of the Film. As ideas for The Final Film go, it’s a perfect match — a bit meta and all that jazz. Accompanying this is, of course, the arc plot that has stretched across the series. As the final film it’s time to wrap that up… Sadly, it isn’t particularly satisfactory. With so many characters killed off in the preceding films we’re not left with anyone to really care about — certainly not the new gang of coppers we’re introduced to. Actually, to say we’re “introduced to” them is a kindness — they just turn up and begin to lead that part of the plot.
That said, the final five minutes are pretty good — just when I was thinking Cary Elwes’ cameo earlier had been underwhelming and pointless, there’s a final reveal to pay it off, and also neatly tie together and round off the whole series. It’s easily the best bit of the film.
It might seem daft to say this about a Saw film, but it’s a bit too gory for my liking. I know that comes with the territory in a film like this, but I think others in the series have managed the level better. This is up with Saw 3 in the stakes of needless torture-porn-level blood ‘n’ guts. The near-pointless car trap is the worst offender, as much as anything because it’s almost entirely ancillary to the plot — it’s a trap for the sake of a trap, and it’s a nasty one.
The film’s extended version (no idea if it’s included on the UK release I watched) only adds 12 seconds, and that’s all gore. Most of that occurs in extensions of literally a few frames. Earlier extended entries added both plot and gore, so that’s… pathetic, really. (According to the BBFC, the PAL-speed DVD versions run 23 seconds longer than the theatrical version. My info on the 12 seconds comes from my usual source.)
Aiming to live up to its title, the whole affair has clearly been designed with 3D in mind. That means a few moments of things flying at the camera, but they’re surprisingly rare. OK, so people explode or are pulled apart a lot more regularly than they were in previous films, and bits of them swing in the direction of the camera, but that’s in keeping with the style of the series and doesn’t jar massively — if you didn’t know it was shot for 3D, you wouldn’t notice most of it.
Other bits, though, you really would. One trap sees three spikes headed for a woman’s eyes and mouth, so naturally we’re treated to some POV shots. This probably worked great in 3D, but in 2D they literally fall flat. Better is a trap that sees two men having to negotiate planks of wood on the second storey of a building that doesn’t have a floor. It works fine in 2D, but I imagine 3D added some lovely depth to the layered drop to the floor below. Never mind the odd things flying at the camera, this was the only time I really wished I was watching in 3D.
Some people lay into 3D for having stuff poke out at the audience for barely any reason. I have no problem with this in a movie like Saw — it’s all part of the fun. It gets tiresome if that’s all it’s doing, or if it happens too often, but once or twice it’s a good laugh; part of the gimmick of a thoroughly gimmicky format. In 2D, of course, that all falls dead. Luckily, as I said, not too much is randomly flung at the screen.
The worst side effect of 3D, however, is that the colour looks ridiculous in 2D. I’m glad they’ve shot it with 3D properly in mind — everyone knows the glasses make 3D films darker, but not every filmmaker seems to be compensating appropriately (see, for example, the criticism of The Last Airbender’s post-converted 3D), so it’s nice to see someone that is. But they haven’t un-compensated (as it were) for 2D. Much of the film just looks weirdly… not bright, exactly, but too light. It’s fine, just a bit unusual. But then some of the blood is a bit of a funny colour and, by the end, has turned a garish shade of pink. Oh dear. It continues to amaze me that no one’s come up with a simple grading solution to make colours look the same in regular 2D and glasses-effected 3D. It can’t be that hard, surely?
Saw 3D has a big pile of good ideas, but all of them are underused. The film just feels boring, somehow; workmanlike, maybe. It lacks the inspiration of earlier Saw films, despite on paper having some of the very best ideas of the entire series. It feels silly to say it about the seventh film in a yearly churned-out franchise, but Saw 3D is a disappointment; a lacklustre end to a variable franchise that started really rather well. Shame.
I watched all seven Saw films within the past two years, donchaknow.
Saw 3D featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2011, which can be read in full here.