Preface: I’ve been a Saw fan since I bought the first two movies on DVD and seen every subsequent movie in the theater and while there were many downturns since the series progressed endlessly, I never stopped defending Saw when people called it idiotic, sick, torture porn or whatever.
That being said: Saw VII made me ashamed of having ever raised my voice to defend this series. Saw VII is everything critics have accused Saw of being, it more or less affirms everyone who has never seen a Saw movie in their (until now) ill-informed prejudice.
First Warning: This fan-rant will make my Expendables outbreak look like kindergarten. It is a wall of text, if you have not seen Saw VII, there is a quick review at the beginning urging you not to see it, please read if you have considered watching Saw VII.
I’ve had a high tolerance for idiotic shit happening in Saw (hell, even after the disastrous Saw V I gave part VI a chance) and you know that something has to be REALLY wrong when people like me (as well as he majority of Saw fans out there) hate this movie so much.
Second Warning: if you want to see this movie because you want to know what happened to Dr. Gordon – he has a 2 minute cameo, that’s it, don’t waste your money on seeing that on screen, please!
4 minutes of Tobin Bell
It might be great if you are drunk – but then again Sex and the City 2 was horrible despite being drunk so I’m not sure if that will do the trick.
Bad acting even for Saw standards
Gore flying at you (in THREEE DEEE)
No story, just a series of sequences loosely held together
Dream sequences with 3D traps inside!
Hilariously bad/predictable ending
Saw VII is everything the critics have accused the Saw series of being
Rating and Moviequation:
Let the rant begin!
But why am I wasting so much time on a movie I hate?
Well considering how much time I spent watching previous Saw’s those few more hours won’t change much of the overall amount of time that has been wasted, so bring it on…
Third Warning: I know that Saw is not as great as Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, therefore it would be ridiculous to compare something like the Saw series to a timeless masterpiece like that. Similar to Expendables I will base this rant on the expectations and qualities that go hand in hand with a Saw movie, so my references will be Saw I – VI, all right, let’s dive into this.
I just want to write the points to warn people in advance how ridiculously bad this is, so bad that the only reason I would watch this instead of Sex and the City 2 is the fact that Sex and the City 2 has the longer running time.
The opening has never been a strong point of the Saw series, except for the first one it was afterwards primarily used to kill somebody off.
Saw opened with a guy waking up, having no idea where he was, serving as a narrative help for the audience to immediately connect (like in Buried we can relate to the guy not knowing anything because we neither know what the movie will be about).
Saw II was way more arthouse and innovative by killing of a random guy, but at least he served as a hint for the detective to find Jigsaw.
Saw III probably has the most story-connected opening since it picks up right after Saw II with the protagonist being trapped – but also such a disgusting mutilation that I cannot watch at all.
Saw IV has a game that at least has a character reappear in the movie other than that it is pretty useless.
Saw V kills someone in an Edgar Allan Poe pendulum trap, he has no real value to the plot other than to set up a flashback – do we see a slight downhill trend?
Saw VI pits two people against each other, forcing them to mutilate themselves, chop of their arms and stuff to have one killed – the scene has no further importance than to set up a crime scene and another ridiculously badly acted scene, both have little to no effect on the story.
Saw VII sets a new standard in terms of laziness.
It opens with Dr. Gordon crawling with one foot (he lost the other in Saw I) and cauterizing his bloody wound on a steam pipe – this sequence is there to shut the fanboys up and make them expect some grand finale.
Followed by a trap set in public space where two men have to fight over a girl who had her way with both of them or any other ridiculous reason, whatever, they have to either kill each other or let the girl die and so starts the gut splashing opening (of course in 3D, because… that… serves… the… story… whatever).
After the trap the gimmick title Saw 3D exposes the hollowness of this installment even when you are watching the 2D version and the opening trap is off, never to do anything for the plot or get mentioned later on.
But considering what the rest of this movie is about, an empty plotline is the least of Saw’s problems right now.
It’s in 3D…
… and looks as cheap as it gets.
You remember Avatar 3D, the only 3D that even I, a passionate 3D hater, can say “well it was okay”?
It was good because we didn’t mind it, the Na’vi weren’t pointing at us to remind us that it was in 3D – don’t worry, Saw reminds you. Even a doctor might be amazed of all the body parts that can be thrown at you.
No Tobin Bell or Dr. Gordon for you!
Tobin Bell has been the spine of the Saw series since Saw II.
He’s the best actor in the franchise and brings a gravitas and sincerity to the role that no other actor has had in this series. He continuously rewrote his lines if they did not fit the character and to me he is the best example of an actor taking the craft seriously.
The Saw series might be a joke to many, but not to him. Watch interviews with him either he is a great actor because he is so much in his role or he is a great actor because he can pretend in interviews to be invested in his role.
He was killed off in Saw III which was pretty surprising for a franchise to kill off the glue that held the series together. Realizing this they took the prequel/sequel route with Saw IV and the subsequent sequels tried to incorporate the dead Jigsaw whenever possible.
With Saw VI the backstory was interestingly connected to Jigsaw but we had to ask ourselves: how much time did that guy spend on prerecording messages?
With Saw VII we don’t have to ask since he no longer is in the movie… not for most of the time.
Same goes for Dr. Gordon so if you were trapped by the promise that Gordon would return… he is in there for 2 minutes, which pushes John and Gordon to a total of 5-6 minutes.
So the question: is a cameo between horribly acted, pathetic gore scenes in 3D for 14 euro worth the 5 minute cameo?
It has never been Saw’s high point. Hell Saw V and VI basically made a sprint for the title “worst acting in a horror movie” which was claimed by this year’s Shocklabyrinth 3D.
But now Saw is back to reclaim the throne and this time they have brought the big guns.
Chad Donella is playing a detective whose lines are just beyond anything you have seen in The Last Airbender, this includes saying crazy 4 times within a minute.
He also explains why a safehouse is called SAFE house (spoiler alert – because it’s safe).
Costas Mandylor returns as emotionless Hoffman… the rest is just not worth mentioning.
Plausibility or suspension of disbelief?
Granted a movie about a cancer patient building a machine that rips people apart has a huge implausible set up we have to accept, but after a certain amount of traps and planning it gets ridiculous. The series has since tried to “explain” the fact that Jigsaw finds empty warehouses, meat factories and all that nice lairs by making him a wealthy civil engineer, the setting up of the traps has been tried to fix by introducing more and more apprentices to provide the muscle power.
With Saw IV we had to accept Jigsaw having an internal atomic clock to calculate events and people even after his death, counting on the detective to figure out the vital clue just at the end of the movie instead of at the beginning and there is a fair share the fans can further accept, but Saw VII just throws all logic out of the window.
How did they set up a trap in the middle of Toronto (or Saw-city)?
Was it a deserted warehouse?
I don’t know, looked pretty neat, maybe John Kramer bought it before his death and nobody bothered to check after he was revealed as the Jigsaw killer if there might be some torture tools inside? Or maybe Hoffman rented the place? Was probably cheap anyway since it’s Canada.
Left alone that the traps have gone so overly elaborate. While rigging people to a carousel was remotely plausible (Saw VI) hanging two people over lawnmowers to slice them apart defies any cost-benefit calculation.
The so-called plot
Maybe most of this review will sound like this:
Traps traps traps traps traps traps
I will dissect the traps so thoroughly (and frankly there is still a lot ground to cover) because there is almost no story to dissect, so the traps are the only element from the original Saws that remains, but let’s go to the “plot”.
Bobby Dagen gets put into a series of 4 traps (like in Saw III, IV, V, VI, damn really original) until he fails his final test – oh, wait that should be a surprise.
Meanwhile Hoffman wants to kill Jill for putting him into the reverse beartrap… that’s about it, really I can’t spend more time on this subject because there is nothing else happening.
Oh yeah and Bobby’s story is as much connected to Hoffman’s story as the opening trap is to anything.
Jigsaw is now like Godzilla (not King Ghidorah), when he is doing a trap, time stands still, people, friends, entire families get abducted and put into elaborate traps and the police force can’t make any progress until the plot allows it.
Basically this is a repetition of the already atrocious Saw V (which compared to Saw VII now looks like Konga Godzilla King Kong) with nothing happening.
Wasting the only good storylines
There are many ways to write oneself into a corner, one is by dropping a character’s entire arc for a generic storyline that has to drag thorough the entire movie until we get the resolution we already know.
Interestingly both Saw V and VII make the same mistakes starting by said dragging storyline. In Saw IV we were introduced to Agent Strahm who albeit generic and stereotypical did everything in his power to find Jigsaw as fast as possible, trying to get the clues correct. Saw IV ending with Strahm being locked up in the sickroom and Hoffman being revealed as the antagonist there was potential for a big mind game as a sidestory in Saw V.
But don’t worry, the writers knew how to screw up a story that would write itself: they made Strahm walk around to serve as a plotdevice for flashbacks that didn’t add anything to the story (sadly more on that later), commenting on the things we had just seen, resulting in the worst scenes of Saw (until Saw VII) only to get killed off in a dissatisfying way.
With Saw VII Jigsaw’s wife Jill loses all her motivation. She went from mysterious and distant (Saw IV) to not present (Saw V) to not quite an apprentice but someone who understands John (Saw VI) to crying woman (Saw VII).
With Jill being the closest person to Jigsaw and his philosophy she could have provided a counterforce. Especially given the fact that Hoffman has almost no character and does not seem to care that much about the job (and we all love our serial killers in fanatic mode more than in opportunistic mode) it could have been a symbolic battle about John’s legacy and methods… coulda woulda shoulda…
Speaking of Jill…
Women in Saw
Serial killers are white males…
As quoted by Scream 2 when they discuss the likeliness of a female killer.
Women in horror movies are many times objectified, degraded or used as shrieking whining stereotypes.
Surprisingly Saw was the exception to this rule. I am personally not fond of Saw III (the fan favorite) but at least it was a horror movie featuring two pretty good actresses in big parts on both sides of the spectrum: Amanda as the serial killer/Jigsaw apprentice and Dr. Lynn who had to perform surgery on Jigsaw. It was a battle between wills and interesting that women were portrayed as strong as well – especially considering that Amanda had a physical confrontation with a blood thirsty Donnie Wahlberg and held her ground.
With Jill there would have been another way to combat the woman stereotype (there are already enough crying women when it comes to the random traps), but her story is basically she’s panicking and is no match for Hoffman. Additionally there is a sequence where Hoffman smashes her head onto a table which is done in a brutally and sadistic way that made me cringe more than any CGI blood that gets thrown onto the screen despite featuring no gore or anything.
The rest of the women is equally panicky/useless and Tanendra Howard from Saw VI returns to remind us how bad of an actress she is.
Flashbacks that do nothing
A flashback is a narrative technique that can be used to give us insight into the storylines, the characters motivations or they let us see a previous scene in a new light (notably Atonement, a movie I hate, but there are some great usages of flashbacks to enhance the different point of views).
Having said this, none of the flashbacks have anything to say about the story.
Saw V’s flashbacks might have been disconnected to the main plot and not helped the story at all, but at least they were semi-interesting to watch if you cared about Jigsaw and why Hoffman became the new killer.
Saw VII’s flashbacks have NO justification for being there, they neither enhance the story nor tell us something we didn’t already know:
We have Bobby Dagen having a flashback where he watches a Jigsaw survivor and gets the idea that he could fake that. Wow, who would have thought about that! I never realized that Bobby got the idea of exploiting people after he had seen some of them talking abou it!!! This changes my world!
Then there is a book signing for a Tobin Bell cameo which tells us… that Jigsaw knew Bobby was lying…. No shit, probably that’s the reason he got tested like we were told previously.
The newer Saws have been suffering from a very soap-opera narrative style that introduced new characters and pretended via flashbacks that they had been there all along, but nothing comes close to the insulting scene, where the new officer Gibson has a flashback when he met Hoffman.
Why? Is it important? Does it change his motivation? Does it provide him with some insight to track down Hoffman?
Not to speak that Hoffman shoots a hobo in cold blood in this scene and we all know how much Jigsaw loves people who do those things. He probably thought: hey that Hoffman guy, he can shoot the shit out of junkies, I’ll hire him as a new apprentice after all he can built a really nice pendulum.
Thankfully the flashbacks are basically non-existent, more of them would have spiraled this movie even further down.
The horror is not seeing!
Saw has become known as a gore franchise, people who have never seen Saw will immediately tell you how disgusting it is, how sick and disturbing and that anyone watching these movies is a natural born killer, but looking just at the original Saw it is quite indeed remarkable how little we have actually seen.
The goriest scene in Saw, where Dr. Gordon cuts off his own foot – sounds horrible, I know, but actually we never saw the sawing (lame pun I know), all we saw (get it?) was the Saw (it gets old but I’m too lazy to get my thesaurus) on the foot and then some blood, quick cut back to Gordon’s and Adam’s faces. One of the most horrific scenes was almost entirely in our minds.
Saw VII knows about this power and shows us Dr. Gordon’s severed limb! Isn’t that great, but then again at least they attempt to “rationalize” how he did not die of massive blood loss.
But Saw VII takes it up a notch.
When speaking of horrible traps that make the public cringe and one trap that literally defines Saw:
THE REVERSE BEARTRAP
This is a trap preying on claustrophobia, having to make horrible decisions and putting the audience on the edge of their seat. Amanda has to find the key to the trap before it rips her jaws open… brrr… just thinking about this makes me cringe.
The trap was used for promoting the idea of a Saw movie via a short film featuring the writer Leigh Whannell in the trap:
We never saw the trap working, we (or at least I) were relieved when Amanda made it out in time (even if we knew she survived the way the movie was cut/shot was just damn exciting) and the possible outcome of the trap remained in the part of our brain that plagues us with irrational scary images.
With Saw VI the beartrap featured a return, which was actually quite an interesting way to make the movie come full circle like the tagline suggested by putting the second apprentice into the same trap the first apprentice was tested, storywise it was really “symbolic”. Also the set up was different: Hoffman was put into this situation without getting any chance to escape from, but he managed to get out of the chair he was strapped to and had to find a way to prevent the thing from killing him – the suspense in the scene (which considering it was the fifth sequel was a pretty good finale) came from the fact that there was no given plan how he would escape and we were unsure if he would survive of not – then again with Saw VII being planned you could kinda guess what would happen.
So we had two instances with the reverse beartrap – separated by FIVE years, which allowed for a huge kind of morbid nostalgia when we saw it again. Now why not repeat the same trick again? One year later you can still cash in on the same nostalgia – in fact why didn’t all Saw movies have a reverse beartrap in them? Way better than coming up with something new.
I have to repeat, the beartrap was scary because we did NOT see how it worked, not that I am spoiling anything, but with the thing not doing its job two times before, I leave it to your imagination if there is a gloriously 3D jawripping beartrap.
Boring! Let’s get some traps rolling!
Wow this rant is getting long, you must be bored right now…
You know what would cheer you up? A trap!
Not that kind of trap!
Saw VII knows that the target demographic is represented by an impatient blood hungry male (the stereotype the Saw series has always been accused of catering towards to) who can’t focus on more than five minutes of dialogue, so thankfully they have included as many traps as possible, they even go as far as to include a ridiculous go-kart dream sequence where Jill gets torn apart in the cheapest possible way, right after she wakes up we cut to four skinheads getting smashed/torn/ripped apart in a gory way (arms and jaws flying away from the body) that just makes you laugh and if that was too much story for you we cut to a survivor meeting where someone we never say talks – TRAP! While the woman talks we cut to a GIANT HUMAN BLENDER MADE OF LAWNMOWERS and see a man killed before we cut back to the meeting – isn’t that great?
Traps for maximum gore!
So we have come to terms with the fact that this ridiculous piece of trash is bad and full of traps, but we need to realize how bad these traps are or to be more precise: how they are deliberately constructed to give us the maximum gore experience.
I have written in my previous Saw article that the thing about the traps that makes them interesting is that they can be overcome and theoretically they could be overcome in Saw VII as well.
But we very soon realize how they work:
Person A finds him/herself in a trap with hopefully more than him/herself so we can up the bodycount.
Insert Jigsaw-tape offering a ridiculous reason for the test and how this all is symbolic and stuff.
Insert way to mutilate Person A or Person B (best way both).
There is a 60 second counter until the trap snaps and kills person A or B (preferably both or more)
Mutilation begins and until second 5 is displayed everything might work.
Shortly before the timer runs out person A fails, which results in the death of A/B/C/the world.
I’m not kidding you EVERY trap is constructed this way, it is so pathetic and cheap it made me shout out loud when the third trap again did not work, where is the suspense if it is always the same formula that gets them killed?
And while we are at the subject…
Bobby’s game and Saw’s philosophy
So the main game is about a guy who pretended to be a Jigsaw survivor (and no one questioned where the trap was etc.?), he goes through the four rooms watching people die and serves no purpose to the story.
We could say the same thing about Saw VI’s game. It was not really connected to Hoffman’s actions at all, but here we arrive at the crucial point: William’s story and character was interesting.
He was an insurance guy, who was tested because he denied Jigsaw health insurance (thus tying him naturally to one of John’s reasons for starting his insane killing machines). Also the way his tests were made basically showed how to do it properly.
To me Saw works best when it is about choices that are morally not acceptable. Jigsaw would place many victims into traps where for example William had to choose which person he would allow to survive. The trap “reflected” William’s policy in the way that by denying insurance he “chose” who would live or die.
Now we would all agree that killing is wrong (I seriously hope) and the fact that you can only save one person means that he decides which one dies – there is no right and wrong in this. It is putting us out of our safety zones into an extreme situation, psychological horror, which is the reason I liked Saw.
When Amanda had to kill a man to save her own life she was put out of our norms of society into a brutal, wild, unfriendly situation, where she acted out of impulse. The idea of killing a person for one’s own survival is disgusting and unsettling – and it leaves the audience with the question “What would I do?”
We may not ponder for a long time on these questions but for a few seconds the movie rattles on our cages of morality, which is why I have “enjoyed” the Saw movies up until now.
Is there ANYTHING like this in Saw VII? Nope, the traps Bobby faces are one person in a trap getting killed because Bobby fails. Unlike William who had a near breakdown Bobby has no change of character. William was a despicable guy, a sleazy suit-wearing smartass but he showed remorse, regret. While he was getting pushed to the limits of his mental and physical capabilities he exposed his human side and we even felt genuinely sorry when the past caught up with him and condemned him for his previous choices.
With Bobby… well he walks, then he comes to the end.
With the years the excuses for trapping people have become more and more ridiculous. The series started out with drug dealers, addicts, voyeurs, the sort of people you wouldn’t want on your Star Trek convention.
Then there were people like a police officer who was killed because she spends too much time with dead people (really as a police officer who investigates in MURDERS she is probably bound to spend a lot of time with the case especially if the case is Jigsaw)
Then there was an officer who was killed for not trusting the killer…
And Saw VI topped that by killing a guy for smoking, that’s right you read it.
But NEVER has Jigsaw killed people he himself considered innocent. In Saw VII a woman is killed with no “excuse” Jigsaw more or less states that she didn’t commit any crimes and still she is in there, wow…
But we could argue that this was the case with abducting and threatening Dr. Gordon’s family in the very first Saw – then again it was not until Saw II when Jigsaw claimed that he never killed anyone etc.
In Saw I he was fed up with the world and wanted to “teach” people, he never said about everyone can survive it, the angle about “everyone has a choice” was introduced later on.
The way the woman is killed in Saw VII just trumps every cruelty that has come before.
The big fanboy ending
Yep, so we get to the ending.
And after suffering through two stories that were connected through an automatic machinegun we ask ourselves “hey wasn’t Dr. Gordon supposed to be in this?”
And the writers reveal the final “twist”
It’s Dr. Gordon, oh my god! He worked for Jigsaw since Saw!!!!!
And he is locking up Hoffman in the bathroom!!!!
And he throws the SAW into the camera… in THREE DEEE!!!!
This is wrong on so many levels and would warrant an entire article but if you have suffered through all of this then I guess you won’t mind a little bit more or to say it with the words of Jigsaw
“Suffering, you haven’t seen anything yet!”
The Gordon story:
Since Dr. Gordon did not return to Saw II (money), there was the obvious question “What happened to him?”
When he did not return to Saw III most people gave up on him, there have been hints thorough the series, but nobody except delusional fanboys took them seriously. In Saw II there even was a scene where a hooded figure performed surgery on a video and since Tobin Bell was not around that day they used a double, the unintentional hair of the actor under the hood that was seen was not Tobin Bell’s hair (just a glitch during movie making) which sparked conspiracies that this was Dr. Gordon.
After five sequels nobody cared anymore for Dr. Gordon and every time someone used “It was Dr. Gordon” as an explanation it got more and more ridiculous and worst of all: predictabke.
It was probably the most predictable storyline and with a series that was keen on having a final revelation at the end of (almost) every movie, choosing the most obvious theory is not the way to go.
Saw and the twists
If there was any sense to Saw VII one might argue that it might have been about survivors learning from Jigsaw to appreciate their life and Gordon becoming the new accomplice/whatever is symbolizing this change.
But we should also look at the only information we got about Gordon: he was put into a room forced to saw his foot of and kill the man trapped with him otherwise he would lose his family. Thinking that his family has been shot/wounded he sawed of his foot shot Adam (who survived the shot) watched Adam beat the guy from Lost to a pulp and then left promising Adam he would return.
Then the guy who put him into the trap appears, the guy who just made his life horrible and footless because his relationship was not working at all – then the Jigsaw killer makes him a foot prosthesis… and that’s it?
A twist only works if the picture afterwards makes sense. That is one of the reasons why Saw IV was not that beloved since the revelation of the killer did not grant us a bigger understanding. The best twists work when we look back and say “oh that’s how they did it, yeah I can see that he has been a double agent all along, how stupid of me to miss that”.
With Saw IV they withheld information about Hoffman, so it was surprising that he was the new Jigsaw, but his motivations did not make sense, we did not know why Hoffman was the killer, that was a cliffhanger for the sequel.
Compare this to the original Saw where it was pretty surprising who the killer was but once you knew it you were “Oh this is kinda interesting, he has cancer so he knows he’s gonna die and that’s why he’s sick of people who throw their life away.”
See how you can piece together everything in a “plausible” way?
With Dr. Gordon there is NO explanation other than fanfiction, there is no hint why Gordon became what he is, he just became it. Maybe they didn’t give us the explanation because that would ruin the twist… that had been guessed since Saw II…
For a supposed finale (that feels more like a cliffhanger if you don’t know that this is supposed to be the last Saw) this is just not doable, everything should fit together, but that’s probably a byproduct of making the story up as you go, remember this is not Harry Potter where everything was more or less planned out even though the writers act as if this was planned since Saw II.
The Gordon story could have worked. He could have been forced to become a new apprentice but secretly planned to not only cross Jigsaw but after his death destroy the only thing (established in Saw II) that Jigsaw saw as his goal: his legacy.
Jigsaw lived on in the traps that continued despite his death so Gordon destroying his legacy, corrupting everything about what Jigsaw thought he was telling the people, hell you could justify every plot/trap inconsistency with Gordon manipulating Hoffman into a wild killer that would bring the downfall of the “help yourself” Jigsaw mantra….
It’s not the best story I’ve just written, but come on, everything is better than locking Hoffman in the bathroom, seriously, this was the nr.1 theory… that’s worse than Lost!
O.k. I’ll take it back… it’s not worse than the flash-sideways in Lost…
Seeing this ending, especially considering that Hoffman got abducted by not only Gordon but two other pigmasks whose identity was not revealed (so much for tying up plotlines), everything just turned into a laughable comedy. The fact that they have recycled ideas (more pigmasks at the end, tooth pulling trap, human blender) from the original (and terrible) Saw IV script speaks volumes for the barren river of inspiration for these movies.
Sadly this movie has already passed 100 million worldwide and will surpass both Saw VI and Saw I, therefore turning it into a success, affirming the producers that Saw: In Space, the new beginning 3D will feature even more gore and traps!
Because if Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare has taught us everything, it’s that sadly none of these franchises stays dead and keeps reminding us that they were beloved way back in the days… in a way Saw now truly is the Nightmare on Elm Street of my generation.