You can say what you want about the Saw franchise - It's all gore and no scare, it's about money over substance, or perhaps you've jumped on the classification bandwagon, shouting 'torture porn' from the rooftops. Me? I think the Saw films have been top notch through and through. The first three films stand together as an excellent trilogy. I thought Lions Gate should have quit while they were ahead, but we know how things work in Hollywood - If there's a buck to be made, sequels are going to keep churning out of the meat grinder until people stop eating them up. The next three films weren't too bad, but they certainly didn't live up to their predecessors. Saw IV was better than expected, Saw V went in the wrong direction and seemed more like a cop drama than anything else, and Saw VI ended up being a return to form. Once again I found myself wishing that Lions Gate would quit while they were ahead, but taking into consideration their promotional tagline - If it's Halloween, it must be Saw - I knew another Saw would be ready for moviegoers in another short year. Although I considered my skepticism to be at an all time high, that was before I had learned the franchise was going to cash-in on the 3D fad, while simply titling the film, Saw 3D. At that point I made a decision - That this was going to be the first Saw flick I didn't go to see in theaters. This was supposedly going to be the final installment to the series as a whole, and I wanted to judge the movie strictly based on its merits as a film, not as a fun 3D gore-fest. Now that Saw 3D (or, as this 2D release is called, Saw - The Final Chapter) has been released on Blu-ray, I finally have that opportunity. The result? Well, it's as I said - Lions Gate really should have quite while they were ahead.
***Warning: If you've never seen any of the films previous to 'The Final Chapter', you'll find some major spoilers in this review.
Bobby Dagen was a nobody that hung out at bars, unappreciative of the life he's been given. He didn't care about contributing to society, nor did he care for the people that loved him. Simply put, Bobby had hit rock bottom. This downward spiral is what earned Bobby the 'opportunity' to take part in a test crafted by none other than Jigsaw himself. Awaking in an unfamiliar location, he was immediately given an ultimatum - Install hooks deep inside his chest so he could pulley himself up a couple of stories to set himself free, or, he could accept defeat and call it a life. Despite the fact he'd suffer from severe blood loss and would be scarred for life, Bobby didn't hesitate to play the game by Jigsaw's rules. He chose to live. Now, years later, Bobby is a successful motivational speaker and author, encouraging other Jigsaw survivors that they don't need to be crippled by their near death experience, but can instead have rich and fulfilling lives. In the eyes of the general public, this has made Bobby a hero, a saint, and a symbol of hope. In the eyes of Jigsaw however, Bobby is a fraud. Jigsaw never subjected Mr. Dagen to one of his sinister traps, but considering just how much Bobby loves using the pain of others to make a little money, Jigsaw leaves his successor, Detective Mark Hoffman, instructions on how to teach this liar a lesson.
Unfortunately for the newly crowned Jigsaw however, Hoffman has a little more on his plate to worry about than running games of death. After Jill's failed attempt to kill the Detective turned serial killer, she knows it's only a matter of time before Hoffman finds her and tries to return the favor, so she runs to the police looking for protective custody. Of course, the police are reluctant to help her, so she offers to reveal all the dirt she has on Hoffman in exchange for immunity from any charges that would come her way from being involved in the grand Jigsaw scheme. Hoffman isn't ready to be thrown under the bus however, so he sets a new chain of events in motion so he can silence Jill before she can give the police anything solid... but considering she's kept under watchful eye in a cell at the station, Hoffman's plan is going to have to go off without a hitch if he's to continue to carry on the work of John Kramer.
On the surface, this is very much a Saw film - The traps are clever, there's plenty of gore, and there are some crowd pleasing twists abound. That being said, I never exclusively subscribed to the franchise based on its ability to throw gratuitous gore at me every chance it got... I've been hooked on the story as well. John Kramer, the Jigsaw killer, is for my money's worth the most interesting horror icon I've had the pleasure of watching in quite some time. He's not a monster hiding in the dark, nor is he an evil supernatural entity. No, John Kramer was simply a sick man that reached his breaking point. Suffering from a terminal illness, John was tired of watching people take their lives for granted. It was absurd for him to see people teasing death to come knocking on their door, when he would have given anything to keep the Grim Reaper as far away from him as possible. This man was not a conventional killer in the horror genre, because in the strictest sense of the word, John didn't 'murder' anyone. He merely presented people with a difficult challenge to see how important life was to them. If living was important enough, they'd find a way out of Jigsaw's trap... if not, then their life was extinguished, never to abuse the privilege of life again. That's what makes this horror villain so unique and yes, even frightening - The fact that you can understand where Jigsaw is coming from, and to a certain extent, even agree with what he's been doing. It's a total mind-job.
But, unfortunately for Saw - The Final Chapter, John Kramer is absent throughout most of the film. I know, I know. That character's been dead for a while now, but he still made plenty of relevant appearances in flashbacks to keep everything tied together in a neat little bow. This time however, the show belongs to Detective Hoffman and the icy Jill Tuck almost exclusively. It's a real shame, because I never felt any kind of a connection with Jigsaw's wife, and I really couldn't care less about how things wrapped up with Hoffman. That's probably my biggest complaint about Saw - The Final Chapter overall, that there wasn't a single character in the film that I cared for as much as Doctor Gordon, Detective Matthews, or to a lesser extent, Detective Kerry. Being as heavily invested in the story of the franchise as I am, it was rather disappointing that The Final Chapter offered nothing of significant value to me as a loyal member of the audience. Every single person in this movie, good or bad, could die and I wouldn't care. The end of this saga doesn't satisfy, although as expected, there's a pretty fun twist at the end, despite the fact it's entirely predictable.
If you're looking for nothing more than some frightening traps and an eye-wincing amount of gore, than look no further. Saw - The Final Chapter doesn't disappoint. If like me however, you've become heavily invested in the story and characters and are hoping for a satisfying end after all is said and done, you're most likely going to walk away feeling like you've been cheated out of your time and your money. It's pretty clear that Lions Gate milked this franchise for all that it's worth. The Saw saga in its entirety should have ended with bang, but fades out with a whimper instead.
Saw - The Final Chapter is presented in 1080p via the AVC codec (1.78:1), and my oh my, it absolutely slays in HD. Much of the film is bathed in tones of blue and green, so you're not getting accurate skin tones or realistic color reproduction most of the time. That being said, these specific tones that are utilized to give the film a darker tone stand out as they were meant to, and really add a feeling of hopelessness and despair to practically every scene. Contrast is very good throughout, especially since inky blacks really help to make those moody tones of blue and green stand out with ease. Sharpness is naturally sharp and never overly so, detail and clarity are adequate but don't stand out as much as they should due to the color scheme, and there are no digital anomalies or 'enhancements' to speak of here, so you'll definitely see a fine amount of grain throughout. After all is said and done, this isn't quite reference material, but that's more due to the limitation of the design of the film itself, and not the transfer, which is clearly a perfect representation of what had been seen in theaters.
The sound mix presented on this 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless surround track is even more impressive than the video. There really is a sense of immersion here as you witness every Jigsaw trap spring to life, and ultimately take life. The sounds of saws, explosions, drills, and guts flying are all impressively loud and sweep the soundstage with pinpoint precision. The LFE channel actually gets an above average workout, and no matter what's happening on the screen, the dialogue remains clear and easy to understand. The sound doesn't even clip as Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park) screams for his life over a roaring car engine. What else is there to say besides that this is a nearly flawless track? There's no way in hell this track can even come close to competing with the DVD, and I doubt it even sounded this good in most of the theaters this film was played in. Make sure you watch this movie at a time when you're able to crank it up!
Producers' Audio Commentary (Mark Burg, Oren Koules and Peter Block) / Writer's Audio Commentary (Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan) - Both of these commentary tracks are interesting enough for me to recommend that you listen to each of them. The producers are able to give a pretty extensive background on all the behind-the-scenes stuff that went on while making Saw - The Final Chapter, whereas the writers are able to clue us in some of the stuff we wouldn't have known about the story without hearing what they have to say. One piece of info in particular sheds a little more light on who was involved for the film's 'twist' ending, which definitely makes the ending feel a little more complete than it did before hearing this particular 'secret'. If you're a fan of the franchise or of this film in particular, make sure you give both of these a good listen!
Deleted and Extended Scenes - There's nearly 14 minutes of deleted and extended scenes here, and although some of the scenes are fun to watch based on the gore they present alone, it's definitely easy to see why they were removed from the final product overall. Good for a single viewing, but don't expect any shocking revelations to come to you while watching these scenes.
52 Ways to Die - This featurette gives us a pretty decent look at all of the traps that appeared throughout the entirety of the Saw franchise. Definitely check this one out.
Music Videos - Karnivool - Goliath, Kopek - Cocaine Chest Pains, I-Exist - Pass Out, Dir En Gray - Hageshisa To, Danko Jones - Full of Regret
Also included is the theatrical trailer, as well as a DVD and digital copy of the film.
Lions Gate managed to keep me hooked on the story of the Saw franchise since the very beginning, but when it came time to finally lay the clever series to bed with its seventh and final installment, they simply ran out of steam. For the first time in the saga as a whole (at least, for this reviewer), there wasn't a single character that I was able to connect with or care about. This has been what's made the series so interesting to me as a viewer since day one - The characters were interesting to watch as they tried to figure out what was going on, and Tobin Bell as Jigsaw was truly something special. All of that is missing from the final installment however, at least for the most part, and all the gore and clever traps throughout this film simply can't make up for it. It's too bad that Saw - The Final Chapter had to wrap things up with a whimper instead of the bang it deserved, but at least now we can say that it's finally over. I would recommend you rent this title, merely for the sake of seeing how things turn out. You won't be disappointed with your rental, at least from a technical standpoint. The video and audio is top-notch for a horror genre film, although you're really going to be left wanting in the extras department. Saw - The Final Chapter... I certainly hope so.