‘Saw 3D’ movie review: The Final Chapter the most gruesome Saw yet

If there’s one thing I can give the Saw franchise credit for, it’s the consistency in sequel titling. First came Saw, then II, III, IV, V, and VI: always a roman numeral, never a subtitle or any other extraneous info. 

Now we have Saw 3D, which might indicate the third film in the series, or the first in the series re-issued in 3D, but in no way conveys that this is actually the seventh Saw movie. (What’s the worst example of sequel titling? My vote goes to the Rambo series, which went First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and then Rambo (2008).) Even more confusing: if you’re not seeing it in 3D, this is Saw: The Final Chapter.

There’s probably a good reason for the title(s): after six movies in six years of more-of-the-same torture entertainment, producers might be a little embarrassed to promote a seventh. So this time we get more-of-the-same – in 3D! The trailer for the film goes out of its way to promote the 3D aspect, throwing debris towards the viewer and claiming “the last piece of the puzzle… is you!”

During the movie, however, the 3D is a non-event. It’s surprisingly bright, crisp, and clean (*see footnote), and, I’m sure, technically proficient. It’s also – outside of a couple very brief shots of intestines and blood spurting out towards the camera – so underutilized (and not just in terms of objects flying at the camera – the added depth is always there but barely noticeable throughout) that after a few minutes I had forgotten I was watching a 3D feature. 

While this is great for purists who never want to be distracted by 3D while watching a film, your average viewer, paying a 50% premium for the benefit of 3D, is likely to leave disappointed.

Fans of the Saw films, on the other hand, should be pleased with this outing. It’s easily the most violent entry in the series (yet), and I was often shocked at what they were able to get away with to receive an R rating (the film was purportedly sent back to the MPAA six times after originally receiving an NC-17). 

Most notable (and efficient) is a junkyard scene featuring an automobile, some chains, and superglue; four irrelevant characters are quickly disposed of via a crushed head, a jaw torn from the face, a back ripped from the rest of the body, and a car crash. It’s revolting stuff that has been included in the film purely for shock value; of course, that description can also be applied to most of the rest of the film and the previous six. Fans rejoice.

Saw 3D picks up right where Saw VI left off: Jigsaw’s protégé Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) tracks down Jigsaw’s wife Jill (Betsey Russell), who attempted to kill him in the previous film. Jill, on the other hand, turns to internal affairs detective Gibson (Chad Gonella) and promises to reveal all. Meanwhile, Jigsaw survivor Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery) is re-captured and put to the test, making his way through a series of traps to save his friends, just like we’ve seen in every other entry in the series after part II. And Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes), unseen since the first movie, makes a welcome return.

There are two distinct movies fighting for screen time here. Saw VI worked (to the extent that it did) by focusing on its own internal storyline; VII devotes only half the running time to Bobby’s story, and it ultimately lacks impact. The other half of the film is devoted to what has become a serial killer soap opera: characters switch sides, die, come back, and so on as new ‘twists’ are introduced with each new movie.

Director Kevin Greutert, who also filmed the previous entry, is a skilled technician and most of Saw 3D looks good; too good, in fact, for a Saw movie – gone is the gritty, grimy style established by Darren Lynn Bousman from part II. The sterile look fit the previous film, which was set more in the corporate world, but feels out-of-place here in junkyards and abandoned buildings. Too often it felt like I was watching an episode of CSI, with the added benefit of more explicit death scenes.

Promotional materials promise that this is ‘the final chapter.’ Nonsense – the ending swings the door open for at least a few more sequels.

*While the 3D adds very little here, it’s some of the best-looking 3D I’ve seen yet. However, I suspect this may have less to do with the movie itself and more to do with the (superior?) equipment at Kino Atlas, where I saw the film. I’ll usually see 3D films at a multiplex, where I’ve always noticed a slight ‘ghosting’ effect: 2D remnants of the 3D image lingering in the background. This is most noticeable when reading subtitles, where you can sometimes see 3D text and faintly, in the background, see the same text on the 2D background. This wasn’t the case at all during my viewing of Saw 3D: every last detail was surprisingly crisp.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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