Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 31st, 2011
“Hello. I want to play a game.”
Like the Beatles used to sing, when Jigsaw says hello, most folks are about to say goodbye. Jigsaw might very well be dead, but his legacy is alive and thriving. If you don’t know who Jigsaw is by now, this might not be the best place to start. He’s the Rube Goldberg of horror movies. He develops sinister contraptions and traps that force people to confront something immoral within themselves. The traps aren’t necessarily intended to kill. In fact, some do survive. They are intended to force the victim fight for their life in a twisted attempt to get them to appreciate it more. There are five previous films you can turn to to get up to speed. Jigsaw and the entire Saw franchise might be somewhat of an acquired taste. But those of us who have acquired it are often eager for more.
Saw 3D. Saw: The Final Chapter. Saw VII. What’s in a name? The film has many names, it appears. But, if you believe this really is the final chapter, I’ve got some wonderful Florida property I can offer you a great deal on. It might be a little damp, but pay no attention to the minor details. Saw has become somewhat a tradition at Halloween for several years now. It would be a shame to see it all go away now…just when it’s really getting good.
The opening trap here is one of the most delightful of the franchise. Three people wake to find themselves in a department store window. Two men are locked to a platform, each with a handy circular saw poised to take them out. They’re going to play a version of tug of war, but in reverse. The idea is to use your strength to put the saw on the other guy. But there’s a delicious twist. A woman is suspended above the two men in the middle of the platform. She is being slowly lowered toward these two guys who happen to be lovers she’s been playing against each other. Now, there’s a third option. They can line up a third saw and take out their mutual lover. Two of the three will walk away from this trap. After the traditional opening trap plays out we move into the … meat, if you will, of the story. That’s how it always starts. You wake up and find yourself bound by some strange contraption. A video monitor comes to life, and Jigsaw explains first why you are here and what you must do to survive.
I made the smart decision to watch the first film again before starting out on this one. It was actually to help bring another viewer up to speed. It turned out to be the best thing I could do, and I heartily encourage you to do the same, if you can. This movie actually brings that film full circle by letting us know what happened to Dr. Larry Gordon (Elwes). The events of that film play quite heavily into the action of this movie.
The police are trying to protect Jill from Hoffman, who has begun another game. He is willing to stop the game if the cops turn over Jill. She is being protected by Detective Gibson (Donella), and we begin to suspect a history between the two. The game involves Bobby (Flanery). Bobby has been making a bit of money by telling his story of survival. He was a Jigsaw victim who made it out alive, or was he? He has a best-selling book and puts together motivational DVD’s all based on his experience. Now Hoffman considers him the perfect prey for a new Jigsaw trap. He must work his way toward his wife, who he met through his deceptions, and solve mini-traps that involve others complacent in his scam. Unlike many of the Jigsaw traps, this one is a bit personal.
While it helps to have seen the other films, it is not completely necessary. The movie works just fine on its own. There are plenty of flashbacks to fill in the missing … pieces. Some are taken from the earlier films, but many are new scenes filmed to give us necessary information. The traps and style of the original films remain and are really what the series is about. This movie can be enjoyed by itself, but not as much as it can be if you’ve seen the others.
Tobin Bell returns as Jigsaw, mostly in flashbacks and recordings, of course, because he’s dead. This is not a supernatural horror film, so we can expect him to actually stay dead. That doesn’t mean that his work can’t continue, and it does through Hoffman or eventually someone else. Tobin’s close association to the franchise has allowed it all to stay so neatly tied together even through many different producers and directors. He really has become synonymous with the character. He has the freedom to change his dialog, and apparently often does. He has been given pretty much the power to protect the character and the franchise, and it shows. Costas Mandylor returns as Hoffman. Betsy Russell is coming alive as Jill. It all adds up to an uncommon continuity and quality over such a large number of films. The real star here is the addition of Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby. He’s going to have to navigate the maze of traps that Hoffman is using to get to Jill. He’s a great talent that brings in a really fresh spirit to the Saw franchise. Who knows if this will be the last Saw film, but it may well be the best to date. Even without the 3D effects that you might have seen at the box office, this movie entertains as well as any Saw film before it.
This was a bit of a troubled shoot, but the final product doesn’t reflect the turmoil. Director Kevin Greutert had no plans to return to the franchise. There was an option in his previous contract that allowed Lionsgate to pretty much draft him, and they exercised that option. Greutert was forced to leave his home in L.A and fly to Toronto for the shoot with a lot less prep than he would have required to make the movie. He was quite vocal about how he felt about the situation. Anyone reading his tweets was well aware of how unhappy he was with the arrangement. But he was a true professional in the end and didn’t want to let the fans down, so he put himself completely into the project and delivered one heck of a film.
Saw VI is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is brought to you through an AVC-MPEG-4 codec at a very respectable 35-40 mbps. I have seen all of the Saw films in high definition, and this one is hands down the best yet. We’re talking an extremely sharp picture that delivers realistic colors and solid detail. The black levels and shadow definition really rock here. You can see all of the minute details of the traps and the maze that Bobby must travel through. Obviously, red is a dominant color here. Blood is very dark and convincing. The film doesn’t contain the edgy, gritty texture that previous films contained. This is a much cleaner and more mainstream look. It’s possible that this path was necessary for the 3D effects to work at your local cineplex.
DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 track helps to bring this world to life. I wouldn’t call it a very aggressive mix, but the surrounds are used to creepy effect. You will find it an immersive experience, whether you want to or not. There is something unnerving about many of the sound effects. I’m talking about bone-crunching saws or blood gushers. The sound design people have had a lot of experience to get this stuff right. You can’t help but be a little creeped out by the whole experience.
There are two Audio Commentary tracks to choose from here. The first features producers Mark Berg, Peter Block and Oren Koules. This track really ties in the whole franchise of films, and they speak in a voice that treats the franchise in its entirety. A good one to try if you’re starting with this film. The second track features writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. Because these guys are really focused on this one film, it is the more directly related to what you’re actually seeing on screen. They talk about how they attempted to build on the franchise style.
All of the extras are in HD.
Deleted And Extended Scenes: (13:46) There are 6 scenes with a handy play-all option. There is an extended opening scene that reveals too much. Most of that footage was tacked on to the end of the movie. I’m pretty sure that was the right move.
Music Videos: There are actually 5 of these.
52 Ways To Die: (14:15) The writers gather and go over their favorite traps from the whole franchise. There are very quick looks at them all.
I know that there is a popular sentiment out there, particularly among critics, that the series has run out of steam. I agree that there is some truth to that. It’s just not possible to get this far and remain both fresh and true to your power points. But ask yourself why you even consider seeing a Saw movie. At the end of the day, there is really only one question. Were you entertained? I for one was completely entertained by the latest movie, and I didn’t even get to see it in 3D. Halloween is a crazy time here at Upcomingdiscs, and I rarely have time to go to the movies. I wished I’d found the time for this one. As long as fans continue to be entertained, there will be money to be made. This film pulled in almost $150 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. I’d say the fans are still feeling entertained. As long as the series continues to generate that kind of revenue do you really think this is “Game Over”?