I walked into Saw 3D with only one expectation. Having skipped the last few Saw movies, I figured that I would understand what was going on without knowing the plot. After all, the first Saw movie had arguably little plot, and the next one I watched had even less. So, I figured that by the time they reached the penultimate Saw, the film would probably have been reduced to simple bloody vignettes. The so-called traps. Unfortunately for me, I was even wrong on this count. The writers of Saw 3D actually took it upon themselves to craft a plot and wrap up any loose ends. This is the idiocy of Saw 3D in a nutshell. It’s a movie that has no idea how terrible it really is.
Spoiler Alert: I’m going to rehash the plot of Saw 3D, just for fun. If you care about the plot for this movie, I can’t help you.
In Saw 3D, one of the Jigsaw killer’s victims, one who actually survived the ‘trap,’ gets rich by writing a memoir about his life-changing experience. But it turns out, he was lying the whole time. He made the whole story up. Let’s stop right there. In the Saw mythology, the killing is still ongoing. So, basically, this guy is writing a book claiming to have escaped a serial killer who is still actively killing. See the problem? Good, because so does the killer.
The original Jigsaw killer is dead, except in flashbacks, but a police detective has apparently taken over the reins and is killing amoral people in spectacular fashion. I mean that literally, as the movie opens with a murder that takes place in a shopping window display. It becomes a spectacle for the crowd that watches, but this motif, which might have made for an interesting twist to the mostly claustrophobic and Freddy-Krueger-Boiler-Room inspired set pieces that have dominated this dull franchise, is not continued. Eventually, we find ourselves in a decrepit dungeon once again.
Nobody tries to find an alternate escape route. In fact, the main character literally follows a line on the floor telling him where to go, like he is a robot on a track. Along the way he finds his publicist, his lawyer, his best friend and eventually his wife, all locked up in one of the ‘traps’ the new Jigsaw killer has set. They all die.
Sorry to reveal the ending there, but that’s part of the problem with Saw. In the first movie, there was time to contemplate the traps. Time to feel the character’s terror and desperation. The first Saw movie asked a legitimate question: what choices would a person make to avoid their own destruction? Would you cut your own leg off to escape a death trap? Sure, you might, but you’d probably take a while to think about it, first.
In Saw 3D, there is no time for thinking. Just about every trap is sprung in 60 seconds. The narrator, who invariably appears on magical cassette tapes that can play themselves, always announces the time limit, and a clock starts ticking. Literally, you see a digital clock and it is ticking down the seconds.
Sixty seconds? That’s it? Sixty seconds to decide whether to kill the girl who cheated on me or the guy she cheated with (who is also trying to kill me at the same time)? Sixty seconds to try to talk my blindfolded best friend across a series of planks, then toss him a tiny key so that he won’t die from the fall? There is no way the characters can ever possibly succeed, and we in the audience know this the whole time. There is no anticipation, no tension. It’s more like bowling. Here are some pins, now lets knock them down.
I’m hesitant to call these torture contraptions traps, because they are not even close. A trap is something you fall into. You aren’t careful, and something traps you. In Saw 3D, there is no such thing. Instead, characters walk to their cars, and get hit over the head from behind. They never see it coming. Then, all of a sudden, they are tied up to some metal face mask that is going to rip them apart in 60 seconds. Ready? Set? Go.
I could almost excuse the movie for being neither scary nor thrilling, but I can’t excuse the gore. It’s quite obvious that the budget for Saw movies is very low. I’m betting it was all spent on welding and set rentals, because I could have made this same movie in the basement of my elementary school for $20 and a pack of hot dogs. The gore wasn’t just unrealistic, it was laughably bad. At the very least, a Saw movie needs to get this right. If the movie doesn’t have a plot, and can’t create tension with innovative trap concepts, at least it can be disgusting, right? Saw is about treating bodies like huge bags of meat and blood, and all of the horrible things that can happen to those bags when they are twisted and tossed about. But Saw 3D fails even at this.
Even the 3D is awful. The moment where objects should be flying out of the screen felt like nothing of the sort. Instead, it just felt like you could see the spear or the flying sausages that passed for innards more clearly. Objects grew larger, but were not any closer than they appear. At the least, kudos to the producers for bilking the audience out of a few more dollars. The movie took the number one spot at the box office this weekend. As CNN points out, though, this was still the fifth best opening for a Saw movie. God help us.
Could this movie have actually been good? Probably not, but horror movies don’t have to be good. The reason I like horror movies, and the reason I see most of them in the theater, is because horror is a completely original genre, completely divorced from the hang-ups and expectations of movies that involve real people doing somewhat credible things. Saw 3D should have forgotten about the supposed plot of the former movies, and focused on what the movie can do best, perhaps the only thing it can do well. Forcing us to ask ourselves how far we would go to survive.