Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)
Originally Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures thought they had enough of of an audience to warrant a two-part conclusion to the Saw series. Unfortunately, though Saw VI was a welcome return to form after the lackluster Saw V, audiences severely dwindled between the two said sequels, and what was supposed to be a grand finale was cut down to one movie. It is the Saw franchise, so grand is a matter of opinion, especially since originally the idea was to bring back David Hackl, who had directed Saw V, for part seven. Instead, wisely, they brought back Kevin Greutert, who had helmed the previous film.
That the series had lasted this long was part of the problem. Although the movies continually piled on more twists and retcons than Disney trying to explain what happened in the Star Wars sequels, and the fact that there was a successful method of keeping the series going after its main antagonist had died, for the most part anything important in the original story was done by Saw III. The fourth and fifth parts could have been skipped completely, and what became Saw VI could have been the reboot, adding in all the drama with Detective Hoffmann and Jill Tuck in flashbacks. By the time this end came around it wasn't just about wrapping up what was left of the story, but also about setting things up in case the public began caring about the series again.
After Jill (Betsy Russell) fails to kill Hoffmann (Costas Mandylor) with the reverse bear trap he takes some time to heal. Meanwhile she goes to Gibson (Chad Donella), an Internal Affairs investigator who has been trying to bust Hoffmann even before he became involved with John Kramer (Tobin Bell). She is seeking protection and immunity as she is sure that he is going to come for her.
Meanwhile, a self-help guru named Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery), who claims to have been the survivor of one of Jigsaw's tests, is gaining popularity. He had caught the attention of Kramer before his passing, and one of his abandoned plans had been to put Bobby through a real test - a plan that Hoffmann brings to fruition, along with another one involving a group of skinheads. Unlike before, however, these tests are diversions. It also turns out that one of Jigsaw's true victims has returned to make sure Hoffmann pays for his crimes.
Although one wouldn't think there would be that much in a Saw movie to cut to get the end down to one film, the truth is all the trimming makes this a confusing experience. The opening trap, which takes place in public, was supposed to happen while Kramer was still alive, to set up two characters that would appear again at the end. Instead, the beginning, effective as it is, feels out of place and with no connection to the rest of the movie. Also, while the space between Hoffmann escaping Jill's trap and his return to set up tests for the skinhead gang and for Bobby appears to be short, it is in reality supposed to be a number of months while Hoffmann heals and plans. Then there is the return of one of Kramer's earlier victims, which is wasted by him not even being in the movie that much.
As with the movies from the fourth on the police procedural portions are a mess and seem unconnected with the larger plot. This far in Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston should have figured out what audiences cared about were the people being tested and the stories leading up to them. This is where this sequel works best, except for the fact that the whole procedure has become predictable. Most of the tension is built on whether the protagonist is going to succeed in saving others or making a decision to just let them die. Unfortunately, when it starts becoming obvious that they are not going to save anyone it gets frustrating no matter how complex the traps are. At some point the person that is the focus of the test needs to succeed in order for the tension to still work. Otherwise it's just showing off gore effects, which the set-up in the Saw films is too much effort for something that could be done with a masked killer and a few sharp objects.
Although a few of the later films are decent, and Saw VI is legitimately good, I still believe the whole thing should have ended with the third and, if not, then with the sixth. The 3-D filming is just one more gimmick thrown in that just looks silly a decade later, especially since it has been proven, for the third or fourth time, that audiences really don't care about seeing a 3-D film unless they get an immersive experience like with Avatar. Even worse, it's the seventh film, so that completely eliminates the possibility of tying in the number three to the fact it's 3-D. In the end, rather than being a grand finale that was promised, Saw: The Final Chapter just pretty much sputters and stalls.
Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)
Time: 90 minutes
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flannery, Tobin Bell
Director: Kevin Greutert