Saw: The Final Chapter Review
Touted as the highest grossing horror franchise in the world (a claim we have little reason to question), there is a clear incentive for the people behind the Saw series to continue peddling the Jigsaw-branded gore that splatters our screens, even though the Jigsaw brand is a mere flicker of its earlier incarnation, following the tenuous links, twists, and turns of the conveniently meandering plot. Even with consideration of the lucrative rewards on offer to the guardians of the seemingly inextinguishable Saw flame, it remains virtually inconceivable that the successful horror series could lurch into its seventh episode.
So, just in case you were beginning to think that the Saw series might be straying towards outstaying its welcome, Saw: The Final Chapter explodes onto our screens with more games, more Jigsaw (via posthumous flashbacks, rather than any supernatural suggestion), more highly tenuous plot connections, and, inevitably, more gore. Yet this apparently final instalment, whilst barely a shadow of the original movie, does demonstrate some appeal, thanks to sensible pacing during its 90 minute tenure, even if that pacing is constructed for little more reason than to propel the visuals from one wince-inducing trap to another (and with this being the purported final episode, the trap-count is high, even by Saw standards).
That said, there is evidence of some imagination beyond the proliferation of traps. As Saw plots go, this one, whilst being straightforward, does lend a little intrigue to proceedings. Our epicentre of suffering on this outing is Bobby Dagen, who capitalises on the Jigsaw legend by recounting his tale of escaping a Jigsaw trap, and evangelising a self-help message via group sessions and a bestselling book. Not only does this lend the opportunity to drag lots of old Saw faces to the closing party (including Doctor Gordon from the premier Saw movie, and ‘scream queen’ Tanedra Howard from instalment number six, who puts in a brief and welcome appearance following her surprisingly decent performance in the earlier film), but it also builds a platform for the hapless Dagen to become entrapped in an elaborate maze of Jigsaw-styled traps, forcing him to face some uncomfortable truths.
The performances in the main are typically over the top, in keeping with the other elements of the picture, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see substantial contributions from familiar faces such as Detective Hoffman, Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill Tuck, and even Jigsaw himself (Tobin Bell), via a newly created flashback. The structure the characters operate within shares the generic template of most of the Saw output, with the story being built around such flashbacks, alongside the punishment of societal transgressors (the trap featuring the collection of white racists, headed by Linkin Park guy Chester Bennington, is undeniably satisfying as they all meet an especially brutal expiry), and the torrid journey a character makes on the often inevitable quest for redemption. If you’re expecting anything new and unusual by way of structure in episode seven of this series, then lower your expectations now to avoid disappointment. Indeed, the only genuinely new contribution is the addition of 3D, which it seems has been made much of; the review copy I used was the 2D version, so I can’t comment to any degree, though many 3D moments can be identified. My experience with horror films and 3D is that the two just don’t combine to deliver an absorbing and realistic experience, and without these two attributes, horror has been deprived of two of the main tools of its craft.
The original Saw movie, whilst not entirely flawless, is a smart and gripping horror example, and there’s little doubt that the proliferation of follow-ups has tarnished the image of the successful shocker. Saw: The Final Chapter professes to close the door on the merciless exploitation of the success of the first film, and its violent extremes certainly draw a thick bloody line in an effort to finish the series in gore-drenched fashion. The end product uses excess as its final roll of the dice, with an enormous bodycount, explicit body-tearing, a silly conclusion, and a raft of cameos that make the movie run something like a horrific school reunion. Yet insanely, thanks to some judicial pacing, imaginative traps, and deliriously mindless special effects, this ridiculously over the top and simplistic finale to the inexplicably long-running series proves a little more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
The Blu-ray edition of Saw: The Final Chapter arrives in a 2 disc pack, containing the 2D and 3D versions. Regrettably (or perhaps mercifully) I can’t comment on the 3D experience, as I didn’t receive a 3D review copy, and I wouldn’t have been able to view it anyway due to a lack of 3D equipment. As mentioned, my former view on 3D in horror has been that it is an unnecessary and often counter-productive gimmick, although given that 3D has taken a leap forward from the green and red glasses that I’ve had to use for former 3D releases, my expectations are perhaps a little out of step with the technological developments.
Whilst I was unfortunate to have some problems with my review copy in terms of skipping and inconsistency, the quality of the release is unquestionable. The movie is encoded for a European audience using region B, presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and uses the 1080p high definition mode, which results in a crystal clear representation of the gruesome horror. What’s particularly important to note is the different approach taken with the filming of this movie; the chosen murky graininess of the earlier episodes, whilst still harnessed here for occasional scenes (such as the almost orange-filtered view of Jill Tuck as she faces a projected vehicle driven towards her by Detective Hoffman), is largely absent, and has been replaced by a razor-sharp definition. The end product is very pleasing indeed, and the reproduction of this on the Blu-ray makes for impressive viewing. The MPEG-4 AVC encoding is used, and performs well to ensure the representation is accurate and rich.
The movie itself is a 24Gb file, and the entire disk totals almost 41.9Gb.
There are English subtitles available.
Audio is very well served, and it’s difficult to find much room for criticism here. Sound is clear, sharp, and accurate throughout, with well balanced levels, bass that is sufficiently deep yet controlled, and treble that is clean and bright. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, so will provide a real treat for those with enough speakers to obtain the full benefit. Even on a 5.1 setup, the surround capability is excellent, with plenty of movement throughout the sound space without the sound becoming cluttered or unnecessarily chaotic at any time.
The most impressive use of sound, for those who enjoy this sort of thing, is the explosion in the car yard, which emits an enormous roar that will tear through your audio system and upset the neighbours.
Extras are fairly well provisioned for a release of this size.
There is a 13 minute 45 second segment of Deleted and Extended Scenes, showcasing some of the scenes, versions and edits that didn’t make it into the final release.
There are a number of Music Videos, all of a similar metal and punk-tinged ilk. There’s Karnivool’s ‘Goliath’, Kopek’s ‘Cocaine Chest Pains’, and I-Exist’s ‘Pass out’. My personal favourite by quite some margin is the fittingly extreme Dir en Grey with the catchy song titled ‘Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami’. Danko Jones’ ‘Full of Regret’ is also worth a watch for an appearance from Lemmy, and some shots of the band members acting out Saw scenes on the sets.
There are two commentary sets to accompany the movie. Whilst it’s a shame to report that neither set contains direct input from director Kevin Greutert or any of the cast, the sets are both quietly engaging accompaniments to the visuals.
The first set is the Producers’ Commentary with Oren Koules (producer), Peter Block (executive producer), and Mark Burg (producer). Whilst not the most lively discussion you’ll hear, the commentators speak passionately about the production, and their relaxed conversation is satisfying enough. Some interesting issues crop up, including the filming techniques (discussions include the issue of implementing the 3D provision), special effects, and some conflicting comments about this episode securely closing the door on the Saw series contrasted with light-hearted suggestions about the possibility of other Saw movies.
Perhaps the most surprising element of the producers’ discussions revolves around the constraints of filming under a tight time schedule, and how some frustrating compromises had to be made to meet the constraints of the budget and timescales; even the highest grossing horror franchise suffers from budget issues. One such example is the book signing scene where John Kramer (Jigasaw) comes face to face with Bobby Dagen; the scene was meant to take place in a book shop, but due to diminishing time and budget, the scene takes place in a set that is arranged like some sort of hired office area.
Second is the Writers’ Commentary with co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston. This is an even more relaxed affair, yet the same level of passion is evident as the pair discuss the writing behind the movie. The central point of interest in these discussions surrounds the various ideas, twists, and turns that were considered, accepted, and in many cases, rejected.
During the 14 minutes and 15 seconds of 52 Ways to Die, various prop designers assemble to discuss the construction and execution of the various traps throughout the series. It makes for interesting and inevitably gory viewing, and hardcore fans of the entire series will be delighted with the rundown of the 52 traps featured across the seven movies.
There’s a Theatrical Trailer to complete the set of extras.
Like a familiar guest outstaying his welcome late into the evening, the Saw series lurches into instalment number seven, yet whilst this release won’t garner anything substantial by way of a new audience, it’s actually a watchable piece that benefits from sensible pacing and the right slab of gore that its bloodthirsty fan base demands. With a very high quality transfer, splendid audio, and a healthy selection of extras, Saw: The Final Chapter is well worth a watch for fans of the previous six instalments, but let the film company be aware that in terms of any twists, turns, or tricks to churn out yet another Saw release (including any so-called ‘prequels’), our collective sense of humour has now officially expired.