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Feature


The Saw series, love it or hate it, will have a place in the greater horror film pantheon. The first few films were so profitable, they pulled upstart major minor Lionsgate from the guys that inherited Carolco’s video library, and placed them on a somewhat even level with the major majors. The first film, along with Eli Roth’s Hostel (a genuinely good film), started a next wave of ultra violent horror films, which were dubbed ‘Torture Porn’ by the media. Quality isn’t always an indicator of popularity and influence, and the Saw movies prove this. So I say again, love it or hate it, this series had its impact, and will likely be rediscovered over the years by new generations of horror fans. Lionsgate managed to produce seven of these films in only seven years, and both the quality, and to a lesser extent box office returns, have been depleting at an alarming rate since the third entry.

Saw: The Final Chapter
This brings is to the series’ seventh and ‘final’ film itself – Saw VII: The Final Chapter. Even people that don’t watch horror films know that the ‘final chapter’ is never the last film in a popular series. Hell, Jason Voorhees starred in five more movies (six if you count a dream cameo in Friday the 13th Part 5) after his ‘final chapter’, so the promise of a wrap-up doesn’t hold a lot of water, and the novelty is wasted right off the bat. This leaves the franchise holders with two options: more outrageous and gory traps, and/or the latest gimmick de jure, digital 3D. They went for broke and utilized both options. The Final Chapter (dubbed Saw 3D for the theatrical release) apparently had more problems with the MPAA than the other entries, and though I suppose the quantity of gore is higher here (nothing at all is left to the imagination this time), the frequency of the violence is a bit softer, and the overall tone isn’t as brutal as the other films. I winced a couple of times, but frankly I’ve been more disturbed by episodes of Tom and Jerry. Editor turned director Kevin Greutert aims beyond the cartoonish by utilizing comic book inspired colours, allowing his actors ham it up to bologna levels, and unabashedly popping stuff out of the screen at his audience. This is a silly movie, even by franchise standards, but the silliness actually sets this episode slightly ahead of the last three episodes.

But it’s still not a very good movie. The script is slightly more thoughtful than average (or so I assume, I never bothered to see the sixth film, which may have been an utter masterwork, I suppose), but it still boils down to a convoluted series of connections to the previous plots, divided by a series of story stopping gory set pieces. Without the time-consuming trap scenes, this particular storyline would struggle to fill even 30 minutes of screen time. Since the original villain died, series writers appear to have given up on bringing anything new to the ‘pantheon’. They’re also stuck with a much less interesting antagonist (Jigsaw had an intriguing enough code, replacement Hoffman just kills people he doesn’t like), making each successive film more dependent on its protagonists. Saw VII takes cues from Saw III by putting the main protagonist in the role of savior, but ultimately fails due to familiarity, and the fact that this particular ‘hero’ has no moral dilemma (the third film is ultimately praise-worthy for giving the protagonist every reason to not save other characters from their traps). There’s also an utter lack of suspense since we all know the filmmakers aren’t going to set up a trap without using it.

Saw: The Final Chapter

Video


Visually speaking Saw VII is like a parody of the other films in the series. Each location has its own palette and focus level, and the overall look is much softer and much brighter than any of the other films in the series. The film was shot using digital 3D cameras, so all that expressive film grain that has been a trademark of these movies is entirely gone, replaced occasionally by slight digital noise. The purposefully fuzzy flashbacks aren’t particularly high in detail, but the rest of the film is more or less plain as day, brightly lit, and swimming in fine details. The colour quality is interesting. In some scenes look kind of like colourized black and white film. Everyone’s skin tone is the same overly warm hue, and spots of colour pop against an otherwise drab background palette. The blood here is very pink and watery. I can only assume this either looks better in 3D, or that pink blood gets you an R-rating over an NC-17. This isn’t a problem for the transfer, but the transfer’s utter clarity does make the pink blood stand out as quite unrealistic. My problem with these scenes is the lack of deep blacks. Other scenes are grittier, and gelled in sickly greens, more in keeping with the other films, and these feature awesomely rich blacks. I’m a little suspicious of the head room throughout the transfer, but didn’t see the film in theaters, and can’t be sure that things aren’t slightly zoomed.

Saw: The Final Chapter

Audio


The Saw films have always been aurally busy, and the video releases have always been impressive, even in the days before uncompressed home audio. This DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is no exception to the rule, to the point that it may be the most aggressive soundtrack I’ve heard from the franchise. Directional effects are wacky, even entirely abstract. The ickier sound effects are pushed beyond everything else on the track, making the sound of tearing flesh deafening over booming music, buzzing buzz saws, whirring gears, clanging metal and smashing glass. The LFE gives a proper boost to the score and all the impact effects, especially bellowing fire. The relentless musical score is featured almost entirely in the stereo and surround channels, creating two consistent walls of noise on either side of the viewer’s head. The music also features a lot more directional enhancement than most theatrical scores, making for a pretty immersive experience.

Saw: The Final Chapter

Extras


The extras begin with two audio commentaries. The first track features producers Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules and Mark Burg, and is pretty chock full of information. This is the more technical track, including an explanation of the brighter lighting and pinker blood, both of which are ideal for the 3D format. The second track features writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, and features a lot of the same facts, but a lot more honest and candid. Personally I’d recommend going straight to this track, then listening to the other track out of boredom in the future. Here we learn that Saw: The Final Chapter was intended as two films, but when the sixth film didn’t make a lot of money the word came down from on high that the two scripts would be crammed into one 90 minute movie. Melton and Dunstan describe much of the deleted stuff, which explains some of the more awkward plot points.

The rest of the extras include six deleted/extended scenes (13:50, HD), three music videos, ’52 Ways to Die’ (14:20, HD), a look at the series’ traps, and trailers. It’s interesting to note that the deleted scenes often feature a noticeably darker image quality, and a warmer overall palette, which lends credence to the theory of the lighter palette not being the filmmakers’ first choice. It’s also interesting to note that the traps are presented in all their gory glory, but nude breasts have been censored with blur. What the hell?

Saw: The Final Chapter

Overall


I’m guessing Lionsgate goes a full three years before reintroducing the series. The mind bogglingly dumb twist stuck on the end of this ‘final chapter’ is very obviously a set up for an eighth film, and I can’t imagine a more recession proof way for a studio to make a couple bucks, especially if they continue to keep the price tag of each sequel relatively low. I’d like to complain about the nonsense ending more, but that would constitute spoilers, so I encourage readers to experience it for themselves. This 2D Blu-ray release looks very impressive, if not a little out of the norm for the series, and the 7.1 DTS-HD audio is awesome, so fans should be happy with it…until Lionsgate releases the inevitable 10th anniversary edition of the series, or whatever.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release image quality.


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