In 2003 two film students created a short film to send to the studios in order to get the resources for a feature film called “Saw”. In 2004 the feature length movie was released to the audiences of Sundance Film Festival (kind of strange to think of Saw as an independent production nowadays) and since then it went on to spawn the most successful horror franchise of all time, surpassing Friday the 13th with its fifth instalment.
October 29th will mark the release of Saw 3D – the “final” instalment of the horror franchise.
Now I don’t give a damn about the general opinion about the Saw movies, I know that one loses a lot of his movie-credibility when speaking in favour of the Saw series, but truth be told, I don’t care. The Saw movies might not be in the same league as the Sh?wa series of Gojira, but hey, not many things are…
The Saw franchise is an annual puzzle treat, every year I sit down in the theatre like there is some big game and it’s not a coincidence that most of the main games in a Saw movie have a countdown starting at 90 minutes… it’s just another reminder that the fans are on the clock. Saw movies have become famous for their (sometimes forced) twist-endings, so besides watching a horror movie, the Saw fan is trying to solve the annual puzzle before the final music cue by Charlie Clouser kicks in.
If you have never watched Saw and only heard about how gruesome those movies are, do yourself a favour and just watch the first one, it’s a very tight, well told thriller – of course not as good as Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, but that goes without saying.
Most of the horrible violence the series has become famous for is actually not in the first movie, the biggest and scariest part of this movie is implied because they didn’t have the budget to do these effects.
Saw (2004) is reminiscent (but of course not in the same league) of Se7en, so if you liked Se7en give this movie a try. Skip the rest, the sequels are for the fans only.
The same logic applies to this article, if you are not interested in Saw, this article is not directed at you, this is me as a long time Saw fan trying to figure out what to think about Saw VII or Saw 3D, how it’s called now.
So where are we in the story?
At the end of Saw VI Hoffman barely survived a trap by John (a.k.a. Jigsaw) Kramer’s wife and we’re not sure if he was “supposed” to die in John’s grand scheme. Whatever was the original plan, either John or Jill wanted Hoffman to fail (probably Jill) and now the plan didn’t work out, so there is some new dynamic. Hoffman will be on a revenge course, completing his journey from a man getting blackmailed by Jigsaw to a man who started enjoying what Jigsaw was doing to a raging psychopath.
The Jigsaw mantra is an interesting delusion thought up by John Kramer. Contrary to the popular opinion about Saw the movies are not about people getting tortured for no reason, they are movies where people are put into extreme situations and are forced to choose between horrible options. The traps are not designed to execute but to overcome, so the conflict of Saw lies within the test-subject, if they can overcome the trap then Jigsaw will let them go.
This is another reason the series has endured so long. In Slasher movies the obstacle to overcome is the killer so at the end of the movie the killer needs to be killed/nuked/sawed apart/you get the picture. This results in the killer being conveniently resurrected for each instalment whereas in Saw the traps are the obstacle.
With the progressing series and the introduction of Hoffman, who played Jigsaw and Amanda against each other the series has slowly become what people were claiming it to be about since the beginning – the Hoffman character is a flat-out killer without any excuses or justification. He uses the “games” created by John to watch people suffer and with the newly resurfaced clip it seems that he is really enjoying the traps as an elaborate execution device.
So there is obviously a story to be continued in a new movie and hopefully wrapped up.
Since Saw II each Saw movie consisted of at least two storylines: the main test and the killer’s story. The killer’s story got covered in the first part, but what about the A-story, the main test subject, can there be anything interesting after SIX movies?
Saw 3D will deal with Bobby Dagen, the author of a book called S.U.R.V.I.V.E.
Bobby is a self-help guru, leading a therapy for survivors of Jigsaw’s tests. He claims to have survived a trap, overcome it and found new meaning in life, but it soon turns out that he never was in a trap and is just trying to cash in on other people – perfect candidate for a Jigsaw trap.
Interestingly the series up till now has never dealt with survivors. Sure there were some people who survived the previous Saw but their purpose was mostly to get killed off very soon. With the Saw series having made a dent in pop culture, what better way to reflect on the franchise than to revisit the victims and how they are dealing with it now?
The most interesting parts of Saw were always the philosophical implications. Leigh Whannell brought up the idea while writing the first Saw about how our perspective of life changes if we are faced with death – in the hands of a good writer there is still a lot of ground to cover.
So we got our B- and A-story, both don’t look that shabby (come on it’s the seventh part, have you ever watched Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood? That’s shabby). So how do you combine the stories?
How better to end a franchise than to revisit its roots? Who would be better to go up against Hoffman, than a previous survivor, one who understands Jigsaw’s ways and can counteract him?
Start the music… because the Doctor is back!
Saw 1 ended with Dr. Gordon crawling out of the bathroom, promising Adam that he would return. A lawsuit over salaries for actor Cary Elwes postponed this for quite some time (and probably saved us from having Gordon return in Saw II and be killed off up front).
With the Saw franchise stagnating the studio decided to bring in their final trump…
Yes, it is for real: Dr. Gordon is finally coming back.
After six years and a million fan theories we will finally see what happened to him.
Gordon is the insecure element, we don’t know what happened to him… what did he do in the more than a year period between Saw and Saw VI? Was he converted? Or is he looking for revenge?
Dr. Gordon – the Wesker of Saw?
The return of Dr. Gordon is probably reason enough for most Saw fans to be interested in this and this is where the alarm clocks are starting.
In my Resident Evil review I complained about fanboys not caring how bad the movie was because they wanted to see Wesker, a character from the video game series. Adding the name Wesker to Resident Evil 4 assured the studio that all the fanboys would not mind all the shitty promotion because they wanted to see Wesker. Therefore the TV-spots could be pathetic without scaring your fan-base away.
The same thing might be more than true with Saw 3D. Dr. Gordon is the big unanswered question. Probably even people who watched Saw I-III and stopped somewhere will now return because they remember Gordon and want to learn about his fate.
I myself want to see it for this reason, so you see how tricky (and admittedly well planned) marketing for this movie works. The trailers are bad (but I’ll get to this) and still I want to see it…
So for the sake of being cautious here’s one annoying teen on the rating.
Traps, blood, gore – story?
Saw 3D will feature eleven traps.
Yes you heard it ELEVEN traps!
With a running time of 90 minutes this is one trap every 8.1 minutes. So either this movie will be a compilation of people getting sawed, slashed, gutted or the traps are happening all at once or they are very short – the last one very unlikely. Probably they stuffed in as much blood as possible to appeal to the blood thirsty skinhead crowd that made up 70% of the people who were in the theatre when I was watching Saw VI.
Count to the fact that Saw 3D will feature the most gruesome trap ever, this sounds really bad. The producers proudly stated that they tried to insert this trap since Saw IV but it was considered too intense… isn’t that great?
Wait a minute, isn’t the movie where we didn’t see most of the traps (Saw) the most beloved and the movie where someone slices apart their hand the black sheep (Saw V) of the series?
Never mind – just put in the human blender!
For your information: the human blender was a trap used in the first draft of Saw IV and thankfully never made it into the movie. It served no purpose other than to tear the protagonist from Saw III to pieces – it was disgusting when I read it and I don’t want to imagine how bad it will look on screen.
Kevin Greutert is directing it
When you ask Saw fans, there is one man, who is the personal hero of every fan: Kevin Greutert.
He was the editor of Saw I-V, so he knows the franchise. He took over directing with Saw VI in what is considered by most the best entry in the series since Saw (surprising when you compare it to other part VI’s like Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare).
He came up with the story of about the CEO of an insurance company that not only tied to the Jigsaw killer’s backstory about being a cancer patient but also turned Saw VI into a very topical horror movie.
Most fans have put all their trust into Kevin and together with the fact that Dr. Gordon is returning has most Saw fans already buying their ticket (once again good marketing).
Kevin Greutert was forced to direct it
Greutert back as a director?
Sounds about right.
He already had a storyline for Dr. Gordon planned for Saw VI and now he can make it happen.
But there is an ugly side that has to be told:
For five years the Saw series had dominated Halloween, always opening with more than 30 million dollars. With production costs from 1 to 10 million dollars this made Saw one of the most profitable franchises of all time (and the most successful horror franchise of all time).
But last year the winning streak was broken, when Paranormal Activity came out of nowhere and took the number one spot, leaving Saw VI with a poor 15 million dollars opening weekend – making Saw VI the first movie in the series to earn less than Saw.
And while the sixth movie was a huge step upwards there were two reasons for this underperformance:
1) Saw V was such an utter failure and in no way satisfactory that most people who were following until this point just gave up, but most importantly…
2) … if people have the choice between a milked franchise and a new out of the blue surprise hit, they will watch the new one (plus Paranormal Activity was more acclaimed than any Saw)
So even though Greutert was punished for the faults of Saw V as well as the general fatigue concerning Saw, the producers of Paranormal Activity saw his potential and hired him as the director for the sequel.
Originally David Hackl, the trap designer of the series and director of Saw V, was scheduled to direct Saw VII, but Lionsgate resorted to dirty tactics, forcing Greutert back to Saw (which led to some pretty disappointed blog posts by Greutert that mysteriously vanished a few weeks later).
With Paranormal Activity opening at a record of 40 million dollars and with 65% on rottentomatoes (less than the first but still leagues above every Saw movie) this would have been a great career jump for Greutert and I’m not sure how much passion one can have if he’s forced to direct another Saw instead of a completely fresh and different movie.
The clip from Comic Con
With Comic Con 2010 Lionsgate released a scene from the opening trap of Saw 3D. For some reason the clip has not yet been published on the internet (contrary to every other year where the Comic Con clip was available about a month later).
Why? Well I only have eye-witness testimonies, but from what I’ve read it’s bad, meaning even bad for Saw opening trap standards.
The concept is the one of a public trap, usually the Saw movies are set inside, which would be an interesting concept and a new take – except for the fact that the trap has lines that make you cringe.
It is designed in a way that two men have to choose to either kill the other one or let their girlfriend die who had their way with both.
Yes, Jigsaw’s motives have become very vague, when in the first movie people got put into traps for taking drugs and leading a voyeuristic life, Saw VI had people crushed for smoking and now it seems that cheating equals getting sawed apart.
The fact that the clip ends with the girl getting sawed right through and the line “sorry honey, but we’re breaking up with you” doesn’t comfort me at all.
3D and the pathetic marketing
How do you boost a movie that doesn’t garner that much interest?
Make it THREEE DEEE!
Don’t kid yourself, they didn’t do this for the story or to tell Saw in a new way. If you are living under these delusions, just watch the trailer again:
Yeah! It’s popping out! Because it’s THREEE DEEE!
The trailer is showing people in traps that are badly animated. That instantly makes me want to see the movie if it doesn’t tell me what it’s about but instead shows me 3D!
The fact that Cary Elwes talks more about how intense it is that stuff is flying at the screen in 3D than about his role as Dr. Gordon is kind of unsettling, but nothing beats the cabaret between the producers and the director assuring that 3D is going to be used to enhance the story, whereas the trailers and clips just show the opposite.
It speaks for the actor’s influence if he returns for every movie and the studio just can’t replace him. This is what happened with Robert Englund – there is just no other Freddy, no matter how cheap the Nightmare on Elm Street series became, they could never afford to not pay Englund.
The same goes for Tobin Bell. Without his performance Saw wouldn’t be what it is today, he became John Kramer and no matter what everyone is thinking about the series, he respects his role and never sees it as a joke.
Going out with a bang and revisions
Yes, the final Saw is a marketing scheme.
Yes if Saw 3D makes money there will be a reboot/sequel. They are already starting to say “if the fans want more Saws…” and the other excuses/backdoors.
But it still makes this movie a little more of an event. With Saw IV the series relied on a sequel, so there were a lot of open ends and cliffhangers.
They can’t afford an ending like this if they want to keep this parade running and pretend that this is the last Saw. So a Saw movie with an actual ending might be refreshing.
Plus Kevin Greutert’s first actions when joining the production was to have some script revisions to fit his vision – at least he seems to be trying, so we’ll give him the benefit of a doubt.
Until a week ago I was between neutral and pessimistic towards this movie. This list shows that there is still some passion for this series inside of me that hopes for a decent ending, if it weren’t for a clip that surfaced a few days ago.
I’d give a spoiler warning but everyone should see this – there are fewer examples of how much 36 seconds can say about a movie:
I will see this movie December 2nd when it opens in Austria, but I can’t think of anyone to recommend this, unless you are a die-hard fan.
If you have seen the first parts and wonder about what happened to Dr. Gordon AND if this clip hasn’t shocked you to death… then see it in 2D.
I know, for such a big rant the verdict was pretty predictable.
Let’s hope Saw 3D’s twist is less predictable than this…