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April 2011

Saw: The Final Chapter

cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, and Sean Patrick Flanery

director: Kevin Greutert

129 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2

RATING: 1/10
review by Gary McMahon

Saw: The Final Chapter

Despite the fact that the films almost became something of a guilty pleasure for me - but only if I'm in a particularly forgiving mood - I kind of lost track of the previous couple of Saw sequels. The first in the series was a semi-serious thriller with horror undertones, clearly influenced by David Fincher's brilliant Se7en. Then, when the franchise machine kicked into gear, things became increasingly silly. The films were now an excuse to show elaborate and bloody deaths, and the machinations of the plot turned into a ridiculous m´┐Żbius strip of time and causality, with the vengeful motivations of the killer, Jigsaw, losing any sense of credibility along the way - and his contrived plans being carried out even after his death.

Which brings us to Saw: The Final Chapter (aka: Saw 3D), which is allegedly the last film in this decidedly laboured franchise. The story, such as it is, focuses on a survivor of one of Jigsaw's deadly games who has set himself up as a successful self-help guru/ author, Bobby Degan (Sean Patrick Flanery). For some reason (I'm not sure why) other people are being killed in the usual contrived puzzle-traps, and Degan seems to be at the centre of things. Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) - who took on the mantle of Jigsaw in one of the previous films, is up to his old tricks, but this time his purpose is different. Also involved is Jigsaw's ex-wife and another detective, Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), against whom Hoffman has a long-held grudge.

There's an attempt at a plot twist that ties the ending of this film in with the very first film - I would have seen this development coming if I hadn't been so bored - but despite aiming for closure this only serves to muddy the waters even further as the series limps over the finish line. Cary Elwes' character (complete with his own limp) has been shoehorned into the script just to allow the scriptwriters to spring this 'surprise', and it works about as well as any of the other ludicrous plot convulsions in the series.

The Saw films are seen by many critics of the genre as a symbol of what's wrong with modern American horror cinema - a reliance on gore, no sense of mood or atmosphere, screenplays written simply to promote an endless franchise rather than trying to tell a good story. It's unfair to lobby blame against one set of films, but I can see their point. Yet in this final instalment the gore effects are no longer even shocking, so the main purpose of the film is redundant: nothing we see here is offensive, and without even that cheap frisson there's nothing left to fill the screen but bad acting, bad writing, and flat direction, with a few lame lunges at the camera to satisfy the demands of a 3D release. Avoid seeing this Saw if you possibly can...



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