After James Wan rejuvenated the genre that is horror in 2004 with his terrific unofficial retelling of The Abominable Dr Phibes, we arrive in 2011 with supposedly the final Saw slicing and dicing its way onto the small screen. Is it the last? Only time will tell, but the way the film comes to a close is a very safe conclusion which perfectly sets up a potential return somewhere down the line.
The only problem with reviewing the Saw films is that they're all individual parts of the same story, which is unlike many of the big genre franchises of the '80s and '90s like the Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th sagas. While most of the sequels to those horror giants were just formulaic body-count slashers all held together by their infamous antagonists, all parts of the Saw series follow on from each other and tell one complete story, as outrageous as it has sometimes been, and so with all the twists and turns that the films are noted for, it's very difficult to share much insight without venturing into spoiler territory.
In a nutshell, and a pine nut's shell at that, Hoffman (Mandylor) is still continuing the Jigsaw legacy even after John Kramer's (Bell) death three films previous. The former detective has a file bursting with photographs and information on all those who Kramer wanted to play a deadly game, and his work will not be complete until every single one has been given the up-close-and-personal choice to live or die. Meanwhile, there's a cop on Hoffman's tail (Donella), as well as a Jigsaw survivor (Flanery) who's on a book tour, selling his story to the masses. But not all is what it seems.
Saw: The Final Chapter is occasionally intriguing and always gory. There is absolutely no let-up in the bloodshed this time and for me that is what puts a damper on the film. The nasty effects are terrific and the traps as ingenious as ever, although you have to suspend your disbelief as to how Hoffman orchestrates them at such short notice when they're so intricately designed, but they're excellent. I'm partial to such ultra-violence in my movies and so I was liking what I was seeing here, but the gore takes centre stage and is the main focus of the film, not the story. It's a real shame because the Saw series began with the spotlight fixed on telling a good story, with the extreme blood and guts in second place, like a staple of the franchise, but that just isn't the case here.Regardless of the film showcasing a gross-out cameo by Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, Saw: The Final Chapter is predictable from the word go and has left me with the same feeling that the previous instalments have. A feeling that the franchise is still alive. I consider the way it ends to be anything but a sensible conclusion and more like a gateway to another film. But like I said, only time will tell. That and studio accountants.
EXTRAS ★★★½ The film is available in a 3D version (it was released theatrically as Saw 3D), as well as 2D and DVD versions. As for the extras, we kick off with an audio commentary from producers Oren Koules, Peter Block and Mark Burg; there's also an audio commentary with writers Melton and Dunstan; six deleted or extended scenes (13:45); five music videos (20:48); the behind-the-scenes featurette 52 Ways to Die (14:15), which talks about all seven films; and the theatrical trailer.