If nothing else, take heart in the fact that Saw VII 3D – possibly the movie’s title, possibly its library call number – marks the end of a horror franchise that, quite frankly, should have only ever been a trilogy. After all, it was in the third film that the remarkably productive serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) perished. But alas, there was still money to be made. So by way of more flashbacks than an entire season of LOST, Jigsaw has precariously lived on, trapping and torturing innocent moviegoers much like he does his victims.
For those of you who believe critics are automatically predisposed to dislike movies such as this, know that Saw VII 3D almost won me over during the first ten minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the opening “game” took place in broad daylight, but more interestingly, played out in front of a crowd of confused and horrified onlookers. “Jigsaw, the public exhibitionist? Now that’s a neat little twist,” I optimistically thought to myself. “Perhaps the Saw movies have finally turned a corner?”
Hardly. This innovative opening turns out to be complete filler, the outcome bearing no consequence to the events that follow – all it does is confirm that there is, in fact, daytime in the Saw universe, something I never would have guessed from the previous installments. More frustratingly, the motivation behind the public nature of the trap is left unexplained, while the crowd of spectators have zero input into how the game actually plays out. It begs the question: why have them present at all? The writers obviously asked themselves the same thing, dropping the promising public angle in favour of the same old dilapidated warehouse setting we’ve seen countless times before, where people we don’t care about are faced with Jigsaw’s overused “retrieve key or DIE” challenge. You can safely bet it’ll be the latter.
Ultimately, it’s the series’ adamant refusal to even attempt something different that has maimed the franchise from the beginning. Remember how Freddy Krueger went postmodern for A New Nightmare and Jason Voorhees hacked up the people of future in Jason X? While I’m not saying these were ideal deviations (Jason X was awful), they deserve some credit for at least trying to mix things up. Saw, on the other hand, has cashed-in on the exact same formula over and over again, never once daring to change its style, setting or story so that one movie would stand out from the rest. I find it insulting, really, that the filmmakers have continued to regurgitate the same pile of puke each and every Halloween for us to lap up. Sure, those chewed chunks of bile-soaked carrot are now in “eye-popping” 3D, but that certainly doesn’t make them taste any better. Even the much-touted third dimension is a cost-inflating ruse; a spleen flies off the screen every now and then, but that’s about all there is to it.
Having said all that, I will admit Saw VII 3D isn’t nearly as cancerous as Saw V. At the very least, it features a mildly interesting, semi-focused redemption narrative involving a phony Jigsaw “survivor” named Bobby, passably played by Sean Patrick Flanery. Likewise, the soap-operatic back story regarding Jigsaw’s legacy – which, let’s be honest, stopped being interesting a half-decade ago – is a lot more coherent than it has been in the past, even if it is leakier than a sieve. And hey, Costas Mandylor has less dialogue this time around, which is always something to be thankful for.
So for what it’s worth (which is not much), Saw VII 3D is a faint, flickering light at the end of a long and torturous tunnel flowing with sewerage.
But you must ask yourself; why on earth are you wading through such crap to begin with?