Saw 3D The Final Cut (VI)
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. Ostensibly, this Tristan motivation is supposed to confer a degree of moral justification for the incessant infliction of pain. At least that’s what is in fans of the franchise seemed to keep trying to convince themselves and others. As far as justification to go, this one is absolutely ludicrous. The inherent problem in this movie in the entire torture porn category of movies is it turns the story protagonist into the torturer. The justification recently used in the hot topic political debate concerning torture is not remotely applied here. There is no ticking clock where less information is obtained as quickly as possible. Many will die. Here Jigsaw and his acolytes just enjoy torturing people in the most elaborate idiotic methods possible. I suppose that in light of this Saw franchise and its kindred flicks do at home films have always traditionally done, reflect the prevalent fear of the population. In this instance, hearing stories of the atrocities allegedly being done routinely as military procedure is indeed a fear that a filmmaker is certain to exploit.
You are fundamentally two types of horror film; those who depend upon supernatural entities, and occurrences and knows that potentially could be based in reality. I have personally always found the latter more effective. There is a much better chance of being killed by a psychopathic serial killer than some charbroiled monster with knives for fingernails intruding into your nightmares to murder you. Psychopathy demonstrated by Jigsaw and his followers are extreme cases, but could be found within the pages of the DSM IV, the diagnostic manual psychiatric disorders. This would also explain why even a madman such as Jigsaw would be able to induce otherwise rational people into becoming psychopathic serial killers. When you look at the mindset behind real-life murderers such as Charlie Manson the might’ve been insane, but he had sufficient charisma to surround himself with followers willing to kill and die for him. I have a series of acolytes the Saw films perpetuates the type of immortality to Jigsaw potentially far more possible than what was employed with Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. What this comes down to is despite the outlandish methods used to slice and dice the victims. There is a foundation of reality as a basis for generating terror.
For this (hopefully) final offering in the franchise the producers decide to go for the latest innovation to hit cinema, 3-D. I revisited this film recently after upgrading my home theater to the latest and 3-D video and surround audio. I knew that re-experiencing the flick was not likely to change my overall consideration of its merits or how I would rate it. Still, I occasionally find it worthwhile to return to a film I previously reviewed to reevaluated, especially, if there have been significant changes in the technology or technique employed by the filmmaker. In the last four years there have been major strides in the presentation of 3-D movies. The illusion of depth has begun the migration from a gimmick to a valid part of telling the story. Considering this movie was made in 2010, the technology referred to as ‘Real 3-D’ had largely replaced the other more primitive methods. While many refinements have been made in the interim, the equipment and fundamental expertise was already available. While some movies were being shot in 2-D with depth added in postproduction, this film began as 3-D. As such, the director, writer and cinematographer were able to incorporate the effects in a more seamless fashion. This is evident in the design of the various traps. Most were contrived in such a way as to project something out to the plane of the film directly at the audience. This movie was one of the early examples of the filmmaker consciously trying to incorporate the expanded space into the story. In retrospect, there are still a lot of objects overtly being projected into the face of the audience. It would still be a while before some of the great directors of cinema with master this new 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 you to such a diagnostic procedure.
Producers' Audio Commentary
Posted 01/18/11 07/28/2014