(This review was originally published in 2010)
Since this film was most certainly made to be appreciated by fans of the Saw franchise alone, I'll be using some humor that only Saw fans can appreciate. Sorry if I leave anyone in the dark here.
First of all, save your money when it comes to the decision to see this in 3D or 2D. The 3D was added in post and is seriously underutilized. Truth be told, were it not for a very occasional blood spray here and there, I forgot I was watching a 3D film.
We start this film off with one of those random, unconnected-to-the-story games that takes place in a very unfamiliar arena... a public place in broad daylight. As the crowd gathered to watch the show, I almost yelled "Bullshit!", because of the absence of one little thing that would otherwise convince me it was not a staged scene. And then it happened... the cell phone cameras came out. Scene redeemed.
But still, something seemed very off about the scene. It was bothering me as the timer counted down the seconds. But then I figured out why I wasn't "buying" it. Thus began my FX gripe... the color of the blood. It was throwing me off for a while until I realised that it was the actual color they were using and wasn't actually intended to look like thickly-mixed Kool-Aide. Or maybe the ratings board wouldn't go lower than X unless they promised to mix Day-Glo paint into the formula.
Shortly after the obligatory opening bloodbath, we attend the Survivors of Jigsaw group. The members seem to be split between those who came out of the experience feeling more optimistic about their lives, and those who didn't. Personally, I think such a group would be split with any member over the age of 21 would either be on disability or unemployment. Here's where my bullshit detector started screaming again... see the Spoilers at the end of this essay if you want to know more.
A quick note: I'm two-for-two when it comes to sniffing out plot twists and endings well before the reveals in this film. This time I used my movie buddy as a sounding board and whispered what I thought as soon as possible to see if he concurred. Since the only other audience members were many yards away, it was the only way I could gauge if it was just me or if something is too easy to figure out. And since he is on par with me when it comes to figuring out endings before their time*, it was a gamble. But I think he was genuinely surprised by my first prediction.
So I found the first "twist" to be easy to detect, but he was giving them the benefit of the doubt, which means that maybe it will get past a few people out there too. However, it does set the stage for the rest of the film, so the rest of my review is going to be on nice, general points until we get to the spoilers.
Gore hounds, you will be happy. Asides from the victims in the main game, the film is peppered with a few random mini-games that deliver buckets of Technicolor blood. They aren't up to John's standards, but certainly believable as being Mark Hoffman's handiwork. And we finally get to see the old classic trap do its job. In fact, I think that classic trap deserved its own line in the credits for as much as it appeared in the film.
The acting was a little disappointing, especially when bringing back some survivors. I realize that a lot of emphasis was placed on the body count so the franchise could go out with a big splash, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the characters before the obligatory blood begins to spill. Jigsaw himself does make an appearance in a manner that had me chuckling, but I would have liked to have seen more of him.
Did the ending do the series justice? I think so. It doesn't tie up all of the loose ends, but it cauterizes enough of them so that the fans will survive. Predictable? Maybe. Again, I couldn't gauge audience reactions this time to see if they had figured it out too. I had my suspicions within the first ten minutes of the film, and if you know your Saw history, it doesn't seem like it would be hard to draw the conclusion. One thing I like about the series is that they do tend to stick with their bible when it comes to plot.
Should you see it? Yes. It's not the best of the series, but it does offer closure. There is an opening for another sequel should they want to take it, but I am really hoping that they don't. In my opinion, the series was fantastic, not t mention the only horror series I've seen where they got away with killing off their main villain and still pulled off several sequels without turning him into something supernatural. It wasn't as "intelligent" as the other films by way of reason and methods, but that can be easily forgiven since the games are now entirely run by Mark, who is neither logical nor an engineer.
Okay, time for the SPOILERS
In regard to the first twist, if you know the standard Saw formula, you'll sniff out the hoax really quickly. My suggestion to anyone planning to fake a trap to survive while it's still widely-known that the games continue: Claim to have been locked in a room up to your knees in dishwashing bubbles, forced to eat a single cookie before the timer runs out, and then break a fingernail while opening the door. Claim anything more than that and you're just asking for it.
The only thing missing for Dr. Gordon was a mustache he could twirl. He was seriously underutilized as an actor. Perhaps the writers decided that fans would be familiar with the formula enough to figure out his involvement as soon as he was shown to be alive, so they didn't bother to attempt to disguise it.
My big question... who were the other two masked survivors? I was hoping that after the main reveal, the other two would turn out to be the little girl and the cop's son. I think that would have even surprised me. But I strongly suspect they were from the survival group given the obvious split shown in the group between those who appreciated their lesson and those who were just pissed off about the inconvenience of it.
*This only works for movies with stories that are well-written and have a beginning, middle, and end. Neither of us can predict TV shows with such accuracy, as they are written as they go along and can change direction on a producer's whim.
Info on IMDB: Saw 3D: The Final Chapter