Saw: The Final Chapter Review

Somewhere, there’s an exec kicking himself for producing a new Saw sequel every year. At that pace, the series lost its luster and intrigue shortly before the 3D craze hit, meaning this franchise could have milked higher dollar ticket sales if they had just slowed down. Trap designers would have loved the chance to design impossibly intricate means of killing people in a new dimension, Saw 3D or The Final Chapter (take your pick) only gets one real chance, and that’s a character’s dream.

It’s also an indication of how desperate this entire series has become, so eager to kill people they don’t need to be awake anymore. Even their dreams are haunted by the maniacal Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), and he’s not even alive. In other words, we have a dead guy who haunts people’s dreams by killing them in their sleep… weird.

Anyway, as the supposed conclusion (or merciful conclusion), The Final Chapter has a lot of loose ends to clean up, bringing back past Saw survivors to make this whole thing come full circle. It also has to answer the mystery of who is really behind all of this since the original killer is long dead, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) hardly a suitable replacement. That’s all answered, complete with about four minutes worth of flashbacks just to explain it. Let’s just say they were lucky everyone wanted to do another sequel.

Aside from the hardcore fans, no one is here to dissect what sequel writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have cobbled together. They’re here to watch some murders, and true to the series, it has some good ones. Final Chapter opens in broad daylight, three people trapped in a showroom window for all the public to see. If you’re guessing this is far removed from anything else in the story, you would be correct.

Still, it’s nice to see the kills move away from their putrid green interior locations, even if the bright lights only serve to reveal the plastic-y gore effects. It all leads to a series of murders where someone casually walks around a police station slaughtering everyone inside (all of nine people; nice security) and the latest victim has to save his wife. Like the hand trap in Saw II, this final challenge brings with it all new levels of stupidity, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) not the world’s top authority on critical thinking.

Let’s assume for a second that is the final trap of this franchise, doubtful since it hauled in $45 million domestically, but play along. Has our thirst been satisfied for elaborate traps that require an inordinate amount of time and effort to set up? Can we accept that the level of planning involved in all of this goes well beyond sheer coincidence to make it all work? Have the final twists that confuse all but the die-hards lost their luster like M. Night Shyamalan? One can only hope so, leaving this seven part series as a stand-alone piece of work.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

This one was shot digitally, leaving this AVC encode from Lionsgate to pick up the pieces. This is not a great source, and that’s not just considering the pukish color palette these movies carry with them. The concern are the black levels, disgraceful for most of the film. At times, they don’t hold up at all, revealing an astonishing level of noise inside of them. When they do reach the peak of their depth, they inhale shadow detail like a black hole, and shine like they were created by a broken glow stick. Hair, clothes, background objects, and the finer detail of the metal contraptions are all suffocated.

Final Chapter deserves a minimal level of credit for finally breaking free of the usual grim color scheme in the opening. Broad daylight, street level photography may reveal that this is digital, while the bright saturation is the furthest thing from a typical Saw movie. It looks like it’s pulled from another movie all together, the pure whites and bold primaries impossible not to take note of.

However, as mentioned, it also shows the smoothness and general lack of detail that will dominate. Saw should never be glossy, and shooting the prior movies on film gave them a grittier look. That is attempted here, but by video noise, not a natural grain. There is no benefit, facial detail rarely a consideration. Flashbacks are intentionally diffused which is fine, although that leaves the current footage on the same level, minus the blown out contrast.

When the usual array of yellow, greens, and blues wholly takes over the image, the transfer doesn’t suffer. Each is rendered brightly, the death of some unknown racist covered in a deep green. The interior deaths usually are bathed in an earth toned yellow, and as you can expect, those color corrections take the flesh tones with them. Even the blood takes the brunt of the digital intermediate, save for the opening where the unreality of it all shows through.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Lionsgate has graced most of the sequels with consistent 7.1 mixes, The Final Chapter keeping things in balance. The opening credits alone are enough to make its presence felt, the sweeping letters, wooshing effects, and metal screeching all presented with the utmost clarity. The first kill takes it one step further, using those two additional surrounds afforded by the spacier mix to splatter some intestines. Who wouldn’t want body parts passing over their heads?

There’s also a number of explosions in this one, certainly a first (and possibly a last) for the Saw films. Each one delivers a deep, rich layer of bass. The satisfying rumble isn’t exactly a hallmark of a series, but a welcomed deviation from the usual assortment of snapping traps. The resulting debris nicely pans front to back too. Some gunfire comes into the mix later, each bullet satisfyingly nailing the low-end.

Moving back into familiar territory, Saw’s score defines “sweeping” even if it’s not all that memorable. It’s always swirling around the soundfield, popping up in a certain surround channel, or even being front-focused. This DTS-HD track is no different.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Two commentaries are offered here, the first with the producers, the second with the co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. Six deleted/extended scenes run 13:46, followed by a few music videos. 52 Ways to Die is a featurette that covers every trap from each film in a fun look back that’s a bit too short at 14-minutes. Trailers and LG Live support are left.

Extras ★★★☆☆