CONTAINS HUGE, HUGE SPOILERS AND A PLEA TO KEVIN GREUTERT
Hello Kevin. I want to play a game. For years your filmmaking career has been marked by death, carnage and suffering. As editor of the first five Saw movies and as director of the sixth and seventh, you have traded in pain and misery and the desecration of the human body. The task before you is a simple one: to create a simple romantic comedy-drama between no more than four people, all of whom you must keep alive for the duration. With a PG certificate. Can you find it within yourself to nurture joy, love and hope for a hundred-minute running time, and eschew the mutilation and anguish that you have wallowed in for too long? Or will you slip back into the incomprehensible overplotting, subliminal flashcut editing and gore-soaked brutality that will stand forever as your trademarks? The choice is yours. The clock is ticking.
Say what you like about the Saw series, they know what they're doing and the only changes in the formula have been increased levels of blood and gore as the bar has steadily been raised. For a story arc that involved its evil genius dying at the end of Part Three, it's no small feat to keep it, and him, going for another four films, although that decision has meant Parts Four onwards have been increasingly riddled with flashbacks, restagings of scenes from previous instalments and slabs of expositional backstory; the plot material going back in time as well as forward. Every year there's been another one, assembled with the same efficient precision as one of Jigsaw's death machines, and each one necessitates a retrospective trawl through the preceding films to get some kind of grasp on The Story So Far as the cat's cradle of an overarching plot disappears steadily up its own backside. It's not like a Bond movie - fully appreciating the joys of A View To A Kill does not depend on having seen Octopussy the previous night, but watching Saw IV, V or VI without having seen the previous movies would be a thoroughly baffling experience and you might well wonder if the reels were in the right order.
True to form, Saw 3D, the seventh in the series, might as well be in unsubtitled Klingon unless you know who Agent Strahm or Dr Lynn Denlon are, or were. Old characters recur for brief cameos, or are namechecked in the script, but as a standalone narrative it makes no sense at all. Picking up from where Saw VI ended, with Jigsaw's evil protege Agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) surviving a reverse beartrap put on him by Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) and out for revenge, while also masterminding a new game in which Sean Patrick Flanery, a con artist who's getting rich off his fictitious "I Survived A Jigsaw Trap" book tour, has to try and save his associates from a series of grisly fates.
The first thing to point out is that the 3D is utterly superfluous and they might just as well have done it flat; we're still waiting for the splatter genre to use 3D to its fullest potential and this ain't it. The second thing is that the moneyshot gore is more upfront than before - the final use of the beartrap is a case in point; a spinning car tyre dropped onto a girl's head is another. Half the time it's like looking at a medical textbook and a selection of crime scene photos; it's overly yucky not just by Saw standards, but by my standards, and I speak as someone with a fondness for gratuitous gore in films. And I think it has now reached a natural conclusion. Two trips to the well was okay, four was perhaps pushing it given that Jigsaw was dead after three, but after seven trips the well is dry. How about digging another well entirely?
It is fun, and you've got to admire the sheer perverse determination of the horse floggers, as well as the stamina of the horse that won't drop dead. But enough is enough. I've had more fun from the Saw saga than I have from Jason and Freddy and Leatherface, and I'll continue to revisit the DVDs occasionally, but it is time for something else now.