I’m really not good with blood.
Back when I was in Marine Corp boot camp, one of the first in a string of constant dangers we were exposed to was needles: lots and lots of needles. The whole first week, when we weren’t exercising, being yelled at or otherwise indoctrinated, they were sticking us with needles: a vaccine here, an inoculation there, and more than a few samples of blood. During one particular sample taking, I decided to watch. There was something hypnotic about the thick, deep-red stream that filled the tube. Hypnotic. So very…
And that was about the time I passed out.
Yes, big bad Marine and latent horror fan passed out while they were drawing blood. True story. In the meantime, I learned to put up with a multitude of pains and annoyances. The latest annoyance I’ve learned to put up with goes by the name of “Saw 3-D”.
In this, the supposed “final” installment, we follow Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagan (Sean Patrick Flannery), who has gone on from his ordeal to become a motivational speaker. There’s only one small hitch: he’s not really a Jigsaw survivor. He’s faking it for the money and fame. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, who we see in a flashback) and Dagen and his entourage are taken and the games start anew. Throughout this, we see the power struggle between Jigsaw’s widow, Jill (Betsy Russell) and Officer Hoffman (Costas Mandylor).
“Saw 3-D”, like many horror movies that have come out in the last year or so, was an endurance test: patches of hysterical screaming and gore improbably stitched together into a grotesquely uninteresting tapestry. Or, since this installment was filmed in 3-D, we are more appropriately placed into a diorama. The only problem is that there is nothing in the environment that engages us as viewers. The traps are gruesome and cringe-inducing, yes, but the victims in said traps are merely that – victims – and nothing more. There are really no emotional anchors in the movie; Jill and Hoffman are the only emotional touchstones and then, only because they have been with us for a few movies now. Otherwise, we are left clutching at shadows, oftentimes finding nothing there. For the majority of the film, all we are left to do is follow Dagen as he staggers from trap to trap for the inevitable death of each of his superficial but still remarkably unlikable friends. There was a time in the series when the purpose of the ordeal was to make the victim appreciate the life he or she was taking for granted. Now, any higher purpose has been set aside and the “Saw” series has devolved into a simple game of revenge. Even when they try to make a point of showing the positive life-changing aspects of Jigsaw’s traps, it’s quickly set aside for the revenge tale of Jigsaw reaching out from beyond the grave to punish Dagen. Similarly, the Jill/Hoffman storyline is more focused on the revenge aspect than it is about a battle of philosophies or legacy.
“Saw 3-D” is a sad, dim shade of its former selves, the resemblance these days being only cosmetic. Next Halloween, we can rest safely in our beds knowing that the torture is over.
Or is it?
As every horror fan knows, no monster is truly dead until it dies at the box office. “Saw VIII” anyone?