Saw 3D is a mess. Seriously, if one were to take out the convoluted traps that painfully dismember and slaughter each victim, we would be left with a series plotline that requires a deep and multi-faceted timeline to make any sense. No character is ever a simple human being; rather, each is a convoluted piece of callow evil. Everyone is due to die in a horrible way at some point, and it’s just a matter of time before the act takes place. Between the horrific traps and the equally confounding narrative, there is not much to like about Saw 3D.
All of this is such a shame, because behind the horrific gore of the original Saw, there was at least a film containing a message about living life to full appreciation. Sure, it was conceptually united with people sawing off their foot or flailing about in razor wire, but the message that was sent was clear. The Saw franchise has clearly lost its way.
After six sequels, we’ve been privy to everyone’s deep dark backstory, the transition of multiple tormented victims into villains, and the slaughter of apparently 70 people. Ironically, while the namesake Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) has hovered above the proceedings like a hellish angel, he’s been dead for four films right now. Not many horror franchises have survived after the death of their main antagonist.
So what are we left with? Well, Lt. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is still acting as Jigsaw’s protege, placing people into traps that force them to commit a grisly suicide. Meanwhile, Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) has betrayed Hoffman, providing the main crux of that plot as he exacts his revenge against her. All the while, lying con-man Bobby Dagen has made a fortune off of pretending to be a victim of one of Jigsaw’s traps, and that doesn’t seem to sit well with the serial killer. Everyone ends up in a trap at some point, and while they all make silly messages about racism, lying, betrayal, and, uh, sexual infidelity, the punishments never fit the crime. I suppose that’s the point, but it’s never particularly entertaining.
So between these thin plotlines we are presented with 11 traps, each so horrific and blood thirsty that one questions who we should be rooting for, and whether or not these people deserve it. Since there are no redeeming characters, we are hit with a horror film dilemma: Where is our protagonist and who do we hope escapes this horrific situation? In the end, salvation is something the writers of Saw 3D have chosen to ignore. Thus, we are left with a series of nasty murders, and…that’s about it. Hell, even those don’t even make sense, with one stand-out trap taking place in a public area involving a love triangle and a couple of circular saws as a horrified public watches onward. It’s strictly a death for death’s sake.
Maybe all of this would be tolerable if the acting was good, or the writing wasn’t contrived. Unfortunately, all of these complaints clearly stand true, and while Saw 3D could have been a fitting end to the franchise, instead it’s a blob of viscera passing itself off as “complex.” It is confusing and pedantic, with Cary Elwes’ Dr. Gordon cameo is a major letdown in itself. For a franchise that had been bad for the previous five films, Saw 3D barely wallows out of the muck the series has remained for half a decade.
Much can be said that Saw 3D signifies the end of “torture-porn,” the so-called genre title of films that glorify the realistic vivisection of human beings. While horror is going into the direction of “reality TV,” creating the impression that what we are seeing is what really happened, a la last week’s Paranormal Activity 2, I seriously doubt that this will signify the end of the terrible genre. For as long as Saw and the films like it make a profit, we’ll keep seeing them trotted out each year. Unfortunately, with films of this caliber, it’s the audience that suffers, a trap that is never ending.