8. Saw: The Final Chapter
As is the age-old tradition with horror movies called “The Final Chapter,” Saw’s seventh outing was anything but, nor was it a particularly dignified or satisfying send-off for the original era of characters.
If Saw VI satisfyingly set the stage for Hoffman’s desperate last stand, The Final Chapter is more interested in giving itself over to gimmicky 3D schlock – the film was released the year after Avatar legitimised the tech – and years-too-late fan-serving twists.
What’s most striking about the film from the outset is its prevailing visual hideousness; the series has always favoured a grimy aesthetic but here the colour grading renders characters practically jaundiced. Worse still, the on-set gore effects were coloured bright pink, apparently to compensate for the 3D presentation’s dimmer tint, yet these colours weren’t ever re-graded for the home video release. As a result, it’s an absolute eyesore to look at.
The glut of cringe-worthy 3D gore effects tip the tonal hand a little too far in the way of silliness, which combined with goofy asides like Jill’s bizarre dying nightmare, result in a film that’s thoroughly daft yet oddly not-that-fun. Though a few of the traps do retain a vaguely satirical underlayer – the two cheated-on boyfriends agreeing to let their girlfriend be sawed to death, and the neo-Nazi (RIP Chester Bennington) having his skin ripped off – the blood-letting has never felt quite this arbitrary.
In the story stakes, Hoffman is a non-presence for much of the film, while our new “hero” is a bland damp squib by the name of Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella). Sean Patrick Flanery gives a solid performance as fraudulent Jigsaw “survivor” Bobby Dagen and it’s fun to see Cary Elwes finally return to the fold as Dr. Gordon, but the script is so threadbare that it gives them little worthwhile to work through.
The idea of a Jigsaw support group is easily the most inspired thing here, and the concept of a media-managed self-help guru attempting to exploit Jigsaw’s victims has aged well in the era of social media performance, but these threads largely taper off by film’s end. The roasting death of Dagen’s wife – a completely innocent, blameless party – at the conclusion of his game felt mean back in 2010, and in 2021 it truly feels like a case of “punching down” in a series which typically saves the most agonising deaths for its most detestable characters.
By act three The Final Chapter’s body count reaches practically comical levels as the net begins to close in on a blood-thirsty Hoffman, and while Dr. Gordon’s long-theorised reveal as Jigsaw’s “final” apprentice comes far too late in the day to have any real impact, seeing it played out in such absurd, “fuck it, here you go” fashion does at least end the film on a perversely amusing note.
Seven movies in, though, it doesn’t really feel like anyone behind the finale has much passion for it. As a piece of technical filmmaking it’s easily the worst of the franchise, though at least less of a bore than Saw V.
As a “conclusion” to the original run of movies, Saw: The Final Chapter mostly lands with a whimper, colliding predictable fan service with goofy traps and atrocious production values.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
7. Spiral: From the Book of Saw
No film in the franchise has suffered from higher expectations more than Spiral. Rather than following-up the uninspired Jigsaw, it sought to forge ahead with a slicker, bigger-budget retooling starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, while bringing Bousman back to helm his fourth film.
Spiral certainly looks the part and benefits from some of the strongest acting of the entire franchise by way of Rock and Jackson, but it’s also a film trying to be all things to all people and ultimately failing spectacularly.
Spiral is neither enough of a Saw film to satisfy the diehard fans nor enough of a fresh take to really justify its own existence. Styled as a sub-Se7en detective thriller centered around the undeniably timely issue of police corruption, returning Jigsaw writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger have effectively created the least Saw-like of all the Saw movies to date, sprinkling the occasional trap and franchise signifier amid an aggressively mediocre police procedural.
The breadcrumb-following investigations aren’t much interesting, while few of the traps register more than a resting pulpse, following Jigsaw’s lead by once again toning the gore down (though not quite as much as that film).
Without getting into specifics, the narrative throughline is a clumsy let-down, offering up the most predictable twist of the entire series – so predictable in fact you’ll probably assume you’re being faked out. While there are elements of interest floating around the periphery of the big reveal itself, it’s ultimately more ham-handed and unintentionally amusing than satisfying or even basically surprising.
Though it technically exists within the same continuity as the other Saw movies, there’s a potent stink of cynicism to the entire production, that it’s basically piggy-backing (pun intended) on the lucrative name-branding of the franchise while not really being much of an actual Saw film at all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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