And so – after a staggering seven movies in seven years – the Jigsaw express finally screeched into its final stop with a flurry of sparks, a boat load of tetanus and lots of sounds of people wailing for their very lives. It was an admittedly bumpy ride, with the story of John Kramer trying to make people appreciate life via better living through mutilation finally becoming swamped by the blood soaked soap opera that was the people caught in his orbit, but now it was finally done with only one more movie to go to reveal the last of the franchise’s secrets.
Of course now we know that things are a little different and the boasts of this being the Final Chapter (aka Saw 3D) ended up being no truer than the same claim made by both Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th (who actually own two supposedly final entries). After the dust settled we first got an abortive soft reboot in 2017’s Jigsaw and later this year we’ll see if Chris Rock can jump start life into the franchise in Spiral, but back in 2010 we were really convinced it was done… for about five minutes.
When we last left our principal characters (those who were still alive, that is), events had tightened somewhat; rogue Jigsaw acolyte Detective Hoffman had gone entirely off the reservation and had barely avoided capture by the authorities by choosing the novel route of stepping them all to death and making a run for it. However, under posthumous instructions from her late ex-husband, Jill Tuck managed to overpower him and gave him his long-overdue test by sticking his head in a variation of the iconic reverse bear trap. Managing to escape despite sacrificing the integrity of his left thumb and a sizable portion of his right cheek (ouch), Hoffman realises he has one more card to play that, if it goes right, will gain him revenge on Jill and take out a colleague from his past who is obsessed about bringing him in. Meanwhile, the last of Jigsaw’s planned traps is playing itself out and, after having his followers previously target unscrupulous property developers and insurance companies, this time it’s the turn of con man Bobby Dagen, a man who has turned his tall tale of surviving a Jigsaw trap into a lucrative book tour. Awaking in the usual scenario, Bobby has to pick his way through the standard rundown shit hole in order to free his entourage from a series of fiendish contraptions before the timer runs down to zero and something particularly nasty happens to his wife. But what does this (if anything) have to do with what’s happening between Tuck and Hoffman, what brutal resolution will the film have them come too and why has Doctor Lawrence Gordon suddenly returned after five films away?
If nothing else, surely the most enduring mystery from the entire Saw series is the whereabouts of Cary Elewes aforementioned Doctor Lawrence Gordon who was last seen lopping off his foot way back in the memorable climax of the first film. Of course the REAL mystery was merely that the actor had zero interest of doing a Donnie Wahlberg and spending the next couple of years popping up in cameos covered in blood and looking miserable – but that doesn’t make a good script. For a true Saw fanatic (they exist, I swear), Gordon’s fate was the last intriguing bit of the puzzle yet to be addressed ever since Jigsaw himself left the building via a particularly vigorous band saw throat massage in Saw III and fans unsurprisingly felt like they had earned some sort of big finish as a reward for their years of service trying to keep track of a plot with more kinks than a Soho madam. Unfortunately, what we all got was yet another irritating episode of the Hoffman and Tuck show intercut with a brand new character trying to negotiate yet another gauntlet of pain before the time runs out. Needless to say, the seemingly bottomless well of twists the series would haphazardly throw at you in the hope of getting you to come back next year has predictably run dry and while this Saw entry is thankfully light on the hyper-complicated flashbacks that annually turned our brains to mush, it also means that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is barely featured. With the franchise’s main antagonist long dead and finally out of back story, this means that the movie now has to be solely carried by the increasingly annoying feud between two characters that never really appealed much in the first place and any tension that arises is provided by the fact that you can’t fucking stand either of them.
Also, the fact that a huge bulk of the runtime of this “final chapter” is dedicated to a completely new character going through the same old shit reveals that the series finally has no tricks left to play, not ones that you can’t spot from a mile off anyway, so it’s left to the typical kind of mystery-violence these movies fall back on to provide the lone item of interest.
But wait: it seems we can’t even find solace here either, because in a truly disturbing wrinkle we find Saw: The Final Chapter to be staggeringly misogynistic. Now, I realise that few eyebrows will be raised at the news of a Saw film mistreating women; but up until now the series has been an equal opportunity sadist, dishing out horrific ends to people regardless of their gender. However, while many men do suffer horrible deaths, it’s the women who almost exclusively suffer the worst the film has to offer and are usually berated while they do it too. Bobby’s agent has to have a fish hook pulled out of her stomach while sound activated spikes push into her throat only for him to scream “Why didn’t you just shut the fuck up!” at her dead body; his lawyer has her eyes and mouth impaled by phallic spikes and when Bobby finally runs out of time, his utterly blameless wife is yanked onto all fours by a chain around her neck and roasted alive in an oven while Bobby watches. On top of this, it’s a woman who finally falls victim to the reverse bear trap (Tuck was hardly a saint but she didn’t deserve this) and the trap that opens the film actually involves two men forced to duel in a band-saw tug of war for the life of the woman who’s been two-timing them, who then choose to eviscerate her instead in a gut spraying extension of the bro code. When you consider that in comparison Bobby’s best friend merely gets hung and Hoffman himself is left to starve to death by mystery Jigsaw acolyte Dr Gordon (a twist a blind four year old could have accurately called), it really does leave a bad taste in the mouth and makes you wonder if the scriptwriter has any issues he may want to speak to someone about.
With that being said, when Saw: The Final Chapter’s death scenes aren’t piling all of it’s weirdly repressed hang ups onto women, there’s a spark of the old glory thanks to returning Saw VI director Kevin Greutert and a centrepiece involving a gaggle of racists – one of whom is portrayed by the late Chester Bennington. With the quartet of unwilling participants precariously attached in some way or another to a revving car, the four for the price of one pay off stands up as one of the series’ more noticably spectacular obliterations.
Dumb, anticlimactic and somehow misjudging it’s torture porn violence to an uncomfortable degree, this supposedly last Saw has finally spluttered to a halt a lot duller then when it first roared into life.