Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw VII: The Final Chapter In 3D (Part 1)

Previously on Saw VI...

Jill Tuck finally showed her true colours, as we learn she's been fully aware of everything her ex-husband has been up to the entire time. She hasn't been helping him, but hasn't been trying to stop him either. She got her hands bloody this time around, turning the tables on the maniacal Mark Hoffman and put him in a trap she thought inescapable. Unfortunately for her though it was, and now he likely has bloody vengeance on his mind to go along with the remains of his face.

Here we are, at long long LONG last, the conclusion to the Saw saga. Six films later, six films after the first chapter gave the horror genre a much needed kick in its arse but then caught a NASTY case of sequelitis... four times over. Saw VI got things back on track with a refreshing blast of originality, but unfortunately no one really saw it because A) Saw V was an abomination that drove everyone away and B) there was a new arse kicker in town in the form of Paranormal Activity.

Director of VI, Kevin Greutert, sprang at the chance to direct the sequel to this young and fresh upstart, but at the last second Lionsgate was all “Aww, HELL NO dawg!” and used a clause in his contract to make him return for Saw VII, or Saw 3D as it was called at this point. Greutert was NOT pleased about this, leading to a memorable blog rant where he wrote:

I just had the task of telling my 83 year old mother that no, I’m not going to be allowed to direct the movie we were all so excited about when my family last got together, and that I’m being forced to leave town before getting a chance to see her again. Yes, I’ll be filming people getting tortured YET AGAIN. So we’ll have to put off me making a film she can actually watch for another year. I’m not making this shit up.”.

Damn! Originally, Saw 3D was not planned to be the final film in the saga, but after Saw VI bombed at theaters they took all the ideas they had for an eighth film and compressed it into this one because the writing was finally on the wall for the franchise. You can only squeeze so much blood from a stone, after all. Showing their hand again, Lionsgate moved the American release date of the movie from October 22, 2010 (when Paranormal Activity 2 was set to premier) to October 29, 2010 just to avoid another curb stomp of box office receipts. This was significant because Saw movies had ALWAYS released the weekend before Halloween, a tradition we were all very accustomed by now.

To recap we not only have a seventh movie in as many years, a script that's a mashup of two movies, a bitter director that does NOT want to be here, and a movie the studio isn't confident enough to pit against a new rival. And let's not forget this was a year after James Cameron's Avatar made 3D a totally unnecessary movie gimmick, so they had to shoehorn that in as well. That all sounds like a recipe for disaster, so let's get things underway and see how it turned out with A Ghoul Versus Saw VII: The Final Chapter In 3D!

We open where Saw I left off, with Dr. Lawrence Gordon crawling along the floor of the factory, leaving a bloody trail from his missing right leg. He finds a steam pipe along the way, using it to cauterize his leg and save his life. Inventive! We jump across town to a rare daytime shot where we see two young men, Brad and Ryan, waking up to find themselves chained to the opposite sides of a giant table saw. What's unusual is the table is set up in the display window of a store, with a large crowd slowly gathering to watch the spectacle.  A curtain above them unveils the third participant in this little game: Dina, the woman that's secretly been dating both of them. They all start screaming for help, a woman in the crowd taking out her phone and calling the police. Another woman tries to break the windows with her briefcase, resulting in some of the weakest shots this side of a WWE Divas match.

Billy the Puppet wheels in on a tricycle, laying out the rules: it seems Dina has been making both guys break the law to fulfill her “material needs”, so at least there's some sort of law breaking going on here besides cheating. Someone has to die from the saw in a minute or else they'll all die, so the men begin battling over the blade as Dina slowly lowers towards it. The crowd takes all this in, many pulling out their phones to take pictures and videos which I thought was a nice touch. Had this movie been made four years later, they all would have been taking selfies. “Me and the guts of Jigsaw's latest victim. LULZ!”. To their credit the police do show up pretty quickly, but by this point Brad and Ryan have decided Dina is the one who should die so they push the spinning blade beneath her. You can guess what happens next. Roll the title card.

We now pick up from the last movie, where Jill sees Half-Face Hoffman has escaped the bear trap and begins to run for her life. She hides from him as he tries to patch himself up, sewing his face shut. Jill makes her way to the police station, requesting to speak to Detective Matt Gibson of Internal Affairs. Gibson is played by Chad Donella, another veteran of television that I'll always remember as “Bug Boy” from the classic episode of Smallville, “Metamorphosis”. She outs Hoffman as Jigsaw's accomplice in exchange for protection and immunity, which he READILY agrees to.

The story switches to a talk show, where Bobby Dagen is being interviewed about his new book “S.U.R.V.I.V.E.: My Story Of Overcoming Jigsaw”. He is brought to life by the superb Sean Patrick Flanery, most famous as one of the MacManus brothers from cult classic the Boondock Saints but has had many other great roles over his career. Dagen is one of the few survivors of Jigsaw's twisted games, and has used that horrific experience to turn into some kind of self-help guru.

With the glaring exception of HOW THE FUCK the table saw trap got set up in plain view of an entire city let alone a building full of people, I highly applaud this movie's realism so far because that's EXACTLY what someone would do who made it out of a trap alive. After the interview, we see Dagen's team of agents and handlers rip him alive for giving a subpar performance that didn't live up to their expectations. His wife Joyce, another television veteran played by Gina Holden, is supportive of him however so I immediately suspect her as being pure evil.

We see Jill leaving the police station, which has now apparently transformed into a haunted police station because it's now scary looking as fuck with creepy fog everywhere. That's alright though, she has an army escort of police officers with her- oh no, wait. She's completely alone. So much for that whole “protection” thing they just established, huh? She sees a tricycle outside near her car, so she does a 180 and runs back into the station. Oh no, wait. She just stands there and gets captured by Pig Mask. Wasn't she supposed to be the smart one?

She wakes up tied by her arms and legs to a series of rails, with Hoffman setting up a giant blade that begins gliding across the rails towards her. Sigh... remember when I said I was applauding this movie for it's realism? Yeah, fuck that. Why wouldn't Hoffman just kill her when she was unconscious? Hell, why even bother kidnapping her IN PLAIN SIGHT of a police station when he could have just stabbed her with poison, or put a bomb in her car, or... rhaargh, whatever. It's been seven movies and I'm so very tired.  The blade cuts her clean in half, sending her insides flying in what I bet was a REALLY shitty 3D effect in the theaters. Oh no, wait. IT WAS ALL A FUCKING DREAM. Oh my God, I am SO done with this movie already. They seriously just It-Was-All-A-Dreamed us less than twenty minutes into this thing. Normally I'd be MUCH more pissed off than I currently am, but then I remembered how mad Greutert must have been having to film this thing so I relaxed.

Our next victim is a man named Evan who wakes up to find himself glued into the driver seat of a car. Evan is better known as Chester Bennington, lead singer of Michael Bay's AND Hot Topic's favourite band Linkin Park. An 8-track (!) in the dashboard begins to play a message from Billy, telling us he's a piece of shit racist skinhead who leads a gang of other pieces of shit in abusing others. We see three others are around the car, his girlfriend underneath it, one of his friends in front of it, and the other bringing up the rear. One disgusting chain of events later and everyone is dead, and I'm now actively rooting for Jigsaw. Way to go movie, let's make the victims more unlikeable than the serial killer.

Back to Dagen, who is meeting with a support group for survivors of Jigsaw's traps that he also just happens to be filming out of the kindness of his heart, I'm sure. There's quite a lot of people shockingly, way more than we've seen from any of the previous films. Sure enough, Dagen is spinning all of their trauma as a positive experience to chance their lives until he's interrupted by Simone, the one-armed survivor from the last movie. She rightfully says what bullshit all of this is, and that the only thing she learned from her forced amputation was she gets to park in the handicap spaces at the mall now. Ha! I like her. Dagen begins playing to the cameras like his agents wanted him to earlier until he's interrupted again, this time by a sarcastically clapping Dr. Gordon who calls him out on trying to profit off Jigsaw. After the meeting Dagen runs into Pig Mask, because we all knew that was coming.

Gibson gets called to the car trap murder scene, his partner Detective Rogers finding a message saying “Gibson see for yourself” right above Jill's bear trap. Dagen wakes up in a cylindrical cage, Billy waiting for him on a television. We learn Dagen never actually WAS in a trap, but made the whole thing up for money and fame which is even MORE genius than what we thought he was doing earlier. For as bad as this movie has been overall, I do like how subtle it's being with its social commentary compared to the last one. Remember, show don't tell!  Now Dagen's going to get tested for realsies, he has one hour to go through a series of trials to save his wife, who is shown to be chained up in another room. Much to my surprise, she WASN'T in on the whole scam.

Gibson brings the trap to Jill in safe house the police are hiding her in, confronting her over neglecting to mention she tried to kill Hoffman. I would like to point out Chad Donella's acting here is HORRIBLE, but since I've seen him in many other roles where he was good I'm going to chalk this up to “Greutert didn't give a fuck”. You can just picture the director right off camera, barely paying attention to what's going on while he sifts through the fine print of his contract with a nearly empty bottle of hard liquor clutched in his hand.  He gets interrupted by another detective, who has just received a letter from Hoffman addressed to Jill with a CD inside. It's a video of Hoffman himself, having completely abandoned the whole Billy pretense. He requests Jill in exchange for not killing anyone else, so Gibson decides to move Jill to the police station where she'll be much safer. Ha ha ha.

Dagen goes through his trial, each test involving trying to save a member of his publicity team and miserably failing. They're all horribly disgusting torture porn, because that's EXACTLY what the series has finally become. To try to keep us awake the film cuts to flashbacks of Dagen's rise to fame, including a signing he does for his book where he runs into one Mr. John Kramer. Oh hey, Tobin Bell! I forgot he was supposed to be in these movies. This is amusing because for some reason he's wearing a backwards baseball cap, which is just hilarious beyond hilarious and made the first half hour totally worth sitting through.

He finally makes his way to the room Joyce is being held in, finding her chained to a platform surrounded by electrified wire. To save her all he has to do is recreate the trap he claimed to survive, which involves shoving hooks into his chest and climbing up to a circuit to deactivate her trap.  While this is going on, the movie's other plot involves Hoffman pulling a whole bunch of tricks to sneak his way into the police station by switching places with one of the dead skinheads in a body bag. To hedge his bets, he lures Gibson into a trap that results in the officer's death at the barrel of an automated gun turret. Sure, why not? Saw's always been about automated gun turrets!

This part of the movie is pure slasher film, Hoffman stalking his way through the station and stabbing people in the throat one by one. Remember once upon a time when Gordon and Adam were locked in a bathroom in a thrilling game of wits? I don't. He stabs his way down to the holding cells where Jill is being held, shooting Rogers in the eye in what is another incredibly awful looking 3D shot. He then shoots Jill through the bars and escapes to begin a new life. Oh wait, no. OF COURSE he unlocks her cell to kill her with his bare hands, but luckily she JUST HAPPENS to have a nail file on her and stabs HIM in the neck. She takes off running, with Jason or Michael Myers or Ghostface in pursuit. I'm honestly not sure what movie I'm watching right now.

Dagen fails again, as the hooks rip through his skin and he falls back to the floor. The timer runs out and Joyce's platform transforms into a giant metal cooker, fire erupting to roast her alive. Well, THAT escalated quickly. I'd point out that Joyce is literally the most innocent victim yet, but since I'm not even sure who set this trap I'll save my complaints for later. I mean, it can't be Hoffman right? Who could it be? Also, if you're keeping track, this completely ends Dagen's arc: watching his wife burn alive in graphic detail. This had ABSOLUTELY no effect on the main plot, and is 100% filler for a story that is already paper thin. I hope Greutert at least got a nice check out of all this, although I bet Lionsgate put something really nasty on the memo line.

Hoffman tracks down Joyce, beats the shit out of her, and straps her to a chair instead of killing her because that's just not good enough. This is the final movie, we gotta go out in style! He goes into the evidence room where the bear trap is, but JUST HAPPENS to find Amanda's original bear trap sitting next to it. He attaches it to her head as the traditional Saw Ending Montage begins playing, showing John and Jill in happier times. The trap rips her face off- ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! Jill better wake up again or else- nope. She's dead. WOW. You know... Jill was basically the HERO of this movie, right? Yes an extremely gray area one, but ultimately she was trying to do the right thing and bring Hoffman to justice.

This entire movie was some kind of fucked up subversion of every 1980s slasher film: you have the heroine scared of the immortal slasher, doing everything in her power to stop him. You even had the fakeout dream sequence where he kills her, just to reflect the doom that he represents. She spends the whole movie trying to survive him, even doing the “running from the slow moving monster stalking her with a knife” thing. And it just ends with her getting brutally murdered completely unceremoniously?! HOLY SHIT this movie is a middle finger to all of us.

Hoffman quips the movie catchphrase and leaves the station, returning to his base of operations to burn it to the ground. As he leaves he gets jumped by... three Pig Masks?! One unmasks to reveal himself as... wait for it... DOCTOR LAWRENCE GORDON! Oh, this wasn't a surprise at all, you say? Showing Gordon earlier being so ominous that the only way they could have ruined this reveal harder was if they had him holding a “I'm the new Jigsaw!” sign ruined it for you? Wait, what's that? Having Jill deliver the envelope to the hospital in the last movie telegraphed this reveal for you as well? Yeah, me too.

Click here for Part 2!