SAW: The Final Chapter - Unrated
(aka SAW 3D and SAW VII)
Studio: Lionsgate Studios
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 90 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 – 1080p High Definition
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Review Date: February 13, 2011
“The situation you find yourself in is of your own doing…”
The SAW movie series was quite the surprise. The progenitor of a rash of horror films infatuated with gore and torture, its beginnings in 2004’s SAW were mild compared to where the series would find itself by the end, and after ushering in a rekindled wave of like-minded horror exploitation films, the likes we haven’t seen since the 70’s and early 80’s, the SAW series found itself outstaying its welcome.
Following the arrival of the enormously successful (and simple) Paranormal Activity, the fickle mood of general horror audiences appeared to shift. The head-to-head scheduling of Paranormal’s sequel a week apart from the Halloween weekend once owned by the SAW franchise was the last straw for the once seemingly unstoppable franchise; this following a decline in quality, attendance, and gross for the twisted world of SAW. Paranormal Activity 2 did stellar business, but even this supposed last entry in the SAW series seemed to hold up better than expected regarding box office receipts.
The Film: 2 out of 5
The premise of the SAW films – at least the basic architecture of the storylines – is likely familiar to everyone, but suffice to say, the series involves victims placed in a series of gruesome predicaments by an imposing moralist (Jigsaw, and in the later sequels, his protégés) who wishes to inflict punishment and a chance at retribution upon those that have wasted something precious in their lives or have committed sins which he believes ample punishment has not been felt. Each film begins with a person or persons in a grotesque contraption that will either end their life or let them free after some painful sacrifice.
In this final chapter we are reintroduced to several survivors of the torture mastermind (for which we are shown recaps) who are broken, depressed, and deeply scarred – both physically and mentally. The survivors are part of a group led by Bobby Dagen (played by Sean Patrick Flanery), apparently a survivor himself, who has published a book detailing his ordeal and triumph, though is not quite as innocent and selfless in helping other victims as he at first seems. This represents one half of the plot, the second half is the continuation of the legacy of the Jigsaw killer; a continuation of his method and means for placing the morally wrong in life-altering or life-ending situations.
The opening torture act – following the flashback to Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon from the original SAW, as he cauterizes his bloody, now footless limb, is one of the film’s few highlights. Though it lacks the fervent imagination of previous killing scenes, it conjures up the requisite squeamishness of the audience well enough as an expected gruesome spectacle while hinting at some social commentary of the passive, voyeuristic tendencies of modern society (watching the event unfold with cellphones capturing the footage). But that’s as deep as the film gets. Quickly we are returned to the plot thread running through the latter sequels with Det. Mark Hoffman (played with the same grimace by Costas Mandylor) continuing the legacy of Jigsaw as Jigsaw’s widow seeks to stop him. The targets of the torturous revenge include racists, cheating lovers, and the central victim of Bobby Dagen and his claims of survivorship. We are once again introduced to new investigating detectives, played in this film by Chad Donella as Det. Matt Gibson, and Laurence Anthony as Det. Rogers, as they literally pick up the pieces of the gruesome Jigsaw crimes.
This series is a fair ways from its somewhat clever origins. The triple meaning title – referring to the cruel Jigsaw, the tool of torture frequently used, and the fact that someone has seen the intended victims’ moral failings, has long since faded in meaning and the sequels have pursued a derivative and tiresome tangential plotting rendering the entire series forgettable.
Kevin Greutert (former SAW editor) returns to the director’s chair (having directed SAW VI) again working from a screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The gritty look and feel pervades but the energy is gone. The elaborate death traps, a staple of the films as the elaborate dream sequences were to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, have lost their luster. Something is missing with this final chapter that even the 3D selling point was unable to recover from. Perhaps it was Lionsgate exercising their contractual muscle over director Kevin Greuert who had been offered the chance to direct the Paranormal Activity sequel, forcing him into a director’s chair he did not wish to be in. Perhaps it was the overly convoluted and forgettable storyline of Jigsaw’s successor, or the terrible acting, or the dreadful script, or what seems like countless other failings rampant through this film. Not even the return of Cary Elwes in a SAW fan boy dream revelation can save the lethargy of this series from itself.
The Video: 4 out of 5
Lionsgate presents SAW – The Final Chapter on blu-ray with a ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p High Definition. Presented in theaters as a 3D feature, only a few scenes seem to lend themselves to exploiting that selling point, but this final chapter remains faithful to the look of the other entries. The color palette dances around the staples of green, orange, read, and yellow, with blue and deeper hues cast around the traps. There are plenty of shadows onscreen and this presentation handles the black levels well (no murky grey substitutes here). Grain level is appropriate to the filming technique and lighting, and overall the quality is very good.
The Sound: 4 out of 5
This blu-ray comes with a rumbling and boisterous English 7.1 DTS Master Audio track. For the first time in eth series I actually noticed the score (provided by composer Charlie Clouser), and though nothing memorable, it is certainly fitting of the image. Bass is heavy during the panic of the death traps, and the smashes, crashes, clangs and bangs of sprung traps and the making of the dead resonate. Surround sound and directional effects are effective when they need to be (including the two somewhat superfluous explosions).
The Extras: 3 out of 5
Included with this release is a DVD version of the film in addition to the digital copy (exclusive to iTunes) that is available
Producers’ Audio Commentary: ExecutiveProducer Peter Block and producers Mark Berg and Oren Knowles amiably discuss bringing the series to a close with an attempt to make it bigger in look and feel from the previous entries, but remain faithful to the look and feel of the series. Some interesting facts come out during this commentary track, but I don’t feel that the amount of insight from the production warrants the time it takes to make it through.
Writers’ Audio Commentary: The occasional reveal of alternate directions for certain characters, such as Bobby Dagen’s final trap originally planned to be taking place in full view of the public. The writer’s clearly enjoy revisiting the blood baths and recalling the challenges of making these movies under such tight deadlines.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (13:46) (HD): Six deleted scenes, including an extended version of the opening (which really takes flashback footage shown later in the film and plays it out earlier), and much more footage of Bobby Dagen.
Music Videos: Karnivool’s Goliath, Kopek’s Cocaine Chest Pains, I-Exist’s Pass Out, Danko Jones Full of Regret, and Dir En Grey’s Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami
“52 Ways to Die” – Recounting the Traps from the Saw Films (14:15) (HD): This special feature looks back over the various death contraptions as special effects and production designer artists discuss how the ingenious and torturous methods of death were concocted.
Lionsgate Live™ – BD-Live menu system that lets you access exclusive content, special offers, ringtones, and more!
This final SAW is a letdown for both casual fans of the series, Jigsaw die-hards, and horror fans in general. The incoherency that began in SAW III – and was partially retreated from in chapter VI, is in full swing as the writers and producers attempt to perform some tying off here. But the work to tidy up the plot threads has given way to absurdities that, quite frankly, stretch credibility even in this horror world, and yet don’t seem to matter anymore. Perhaps the most egregious failing is how Jigsaw, the central figure of these films (and always played with a cool hand by Tobin Bell) is relegated to an afterthought. Imagine a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel where Freddy appears in just two scenes, or a Friday the 13th where Jason wanders on screen for a matter of minutes.
This one is for SAW completists only.
Overall Score 2.5 out of 5