There was a time in what now seems to be the distance past when horror films provided a source of entertainment by giving the audience a few scares and frightening moments. The classic monster movies of horror’s golden age in the thirties made the Universal studios’ monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man household names and icons in the world of terror. Now vampires and werewolves are teen romantic pinups and genetics has replaced sewing bodies harvested from local graveyard as the preferred methodology for mad scientists. The once diversified landscape of stories available for horror has collapsed to an endless series of flicks depicting idiot teens wandering off to the woods for an evening of sex and drugs. Somewhere along the way the genre took a turn for the worse where cheap, visceral shocks fueled by the availability of fake blood and realistic ersatz entrails. Then in 2004 film maker James Wan ushered horror into a new age; a regrettable change in direction that altered the genre forever. His name will forever be known as the one that gave the film world ‘Saw’, the opening representative of what is now called torture porn. ‘Saw’ became an immediate sensation a somewhat upsetting trend on its own. That flick spawned a sequel that became a trilogy then a franchise reaching the seventh installment under consideration here. From the studio’s perspective the rationale behind the continuation of these flick; they are relatively inexpensive to make and pretty much sure to make a hefty profit. For this movie a budget of $17 million yielded over $24 million just for the opening weekend; incredible for the seventh movie in a horror franchise. For bottom line oriented film executives that is pure gold, especially in this economic slump. It certainly overwhelms any concerns that might have been raised to them about the morally reprehensible glorification of torture. I was concerned that they would attempt to make this into a series of three back to back trilogies but the one ray of light to this entire matter is by all indications this will be the concluding opus of the franchise but, not the sub genre it created.
The writers for this flick were the winners of the third round of the Independent film competition, Project Green light’; Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan who previous added to the torture fad with their own ‘Feast’ series of movies as well as a couple of the previous members of ‘Saw’ flicks. One of the most heinous aspects inherent in these films is the way they take the unconscionable act of torturing a human being out of the hands of the reprehensible villain moving it into the use of the protagonist. In the saw movies the madman behind everything is the insane serial killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). While he is far from consideration as a hero he does present a strange moral perspective. His self appointed mandate was to challenge people who have little or no appreciation of the gift of life. he sought to force them to rediscover that feeling by placing them in elaborate traps were the only way to avoid a gruesome, extremely painful death is to make some exceptionally difficult decision frequently involving self mutilation or an act of dire consequences to another person. This exceptionally thin veneer posing as indictment on the lack of moral center in our society is much too insufficient to come close to justifying the depravity depicted in these films. There has been an unfortunate side effect of the movies desensitizing the public just as torture, or as the military has come to call it, extreme interrogation methods, has been in the forefront of the news and a hotly debated topic extending to the halls of Capitol Hill.
The movie opens with a flashback to the first flick just after the infamous foot self amputation. This pretty much sets the stage for what is to come; rehashing the previous six flicks. Even though the dispatched the dreaded Jigsaw early on in the franchise either he or one of his equally insane apprentices devise overly complicated devices. The entire focus of the movies and a major draw to the fan base are the perverted Rube Goldberg contraptions that are designed to inflict not only physical but emotional distress and unimaginable pain. These ‘traps’ as they are so aptly named are ostensibly created by Jigsaw to test the resolve of a person’s appreciation for being alive. For this (hopefully) final offering in the franchise the producers decide to go for the latest innovation to hit cinema, 3D. Personally, I’m not quite there yet embracing this technology; the methodology has made gigantic strides but now we have to wait for the film makers to move past the novelty phase to the point where they can use 3D as a seamless aspect of telling a story. Here there are still the overuse of shots included more to show off than as an integral part of the film. Considering there is little here that actually warrants the making of this film it is not the best example of the use of this technique.
The director, Kevin Greutert, previously headed the previous flick in the series and edited several other members of the pack. As is the usual trending everything has to be ramped up to an extreme point far in excess of any of the prior flicks. In this case there is the first trap set out side with a larger group of people. The gossamer thin premise revolves around a self help author falsely claiming to be one of Jigsaw’s victims. Of course that attention quickly turns deadly. I have to wonder about the mental status of the people involved with these flicks as well as the loyal fans. Perhaps it deserves a notation in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now with Blu-ray high definition and 3D you can relish every sickening detail. Please, if you find this sort of movie highly entertaining check yourself in for a psychological evaluation before the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit issues a warrant compels one.