Revisiting Saw 3D

Released on October 29, 2010, just in time for Halloween, Saw 3D was to be the final film in the franchise, and it was going out in a blaze of glory with a technology that was all the rage at the time: 3D! Kevin Greutert, who was behind the camera in Saw VI, returns to direct Saw 3D. I saw this movie in theaters, when it was released, to experience this final installment in Real D 3D. Is Saw 3D a love letter to fans that ties everything up nicely with a big, beautiful bow? Read on to find out.

First, let’s talk about the 3D effects in this movie. 3D has been tried in movies for decades. It’s really popular one minute, and then it’s gone the next. 3D was wildly popular when Saw 3D came out, and not just in movies. In 2011, the following year, Nintendo released the 3DS, a handheld video game system that provided glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. And in 2010, the same year that Saw 3D was released, 3D TV sets were available to buy, so consumers could experience this visual wonder at home. In 2021, 11 years later, the 3DS has been discontinued, and neither 3D TV sets nor 3D Blu-ray players are being produced anymore. 3D theatrical releases are also almost nonexistent. It seems, for now, our love affair with 3D, which was sparked most recently by Avatar, has waned. However, I’m sure it will return.

Let’s rewind back to October 2010, when 3D was still relevant and Saw 3D hit theaters. The filmmakers did a fine job with employing the use of 3D technology. While many 3D films were shot traditionally and then that footage was transferred to 3D, Saw 3D was shot entirely in Real D 3D using the SI-3D digital camera system. There are plenty of moments in the movie where objects or innards fly at the screen, providing a wonderful 3D effect. I remember moving my head several times, subconsciously thinking that I was about to get hit by one of these items because the 3D effect was so convincing. At this point in the world of 3D film, the Real D 3D glasses, which resemble Ray-Ban sunglasses, were significantly more comfortable, effective, and aesthetically pleasing than the old school paper 3D glasses being used for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare in 1991.

Technology aside, the story is what matters most. As always, multiple storylines are taking place at once. At long last, Dr. Lawrence Gordon returns to Saw! We see what happened after he escaped the room and, as the movie plays out, that he helped Jigsaw with a variety of tasks that required medical training, such has stitching a victim’s eyes shut, inserting a key into an orifice and sealing it — as George Carlin would say, “Real high-tech shit!” Apparently, the filmmakers scoured Saw message boards to read what loose ends fans wanted them to address, and they did their best to do just that. Bringing back the good doctor was the best way to satisfy the fans, especially since so many of us were talking about the possibility of him returning in previous sequels.

The Detective Hoffman versus Jill Tuck storyline returns in this entry, and it comes to a head (pun intended) when, at the end of the movie, Jill is placed in the original reverse bear trap by Hoffman. She doesn’t survive, and finally seeing the destructive force that this trap can wield, especially in vivid and explicit 3D, was spectacularly gruesome. Costas Mandylor is, once again, phenomenal in his role, and I’m thrilled that he played such an important part in the majority of the sequels. He oozes evil from his pores and completely embodies this part to the fullest extent possible.

The centerpiece of Saw 3D’s story is a self-help guru, Bobby Dagen, who is profiting off of his supposed survival of Jigsaw’s test. He claims that he made it out of a Jigsaw trap and became a better man because of it. He’s more grateful to be alive, found the love of his life, wrote a book about the whole ordeal, and is trying to inspire others with his story. It’s revealed that he’s a liar who is making money off of something that never happened, which is an affront to the real victims, as well as John “Jigsaw” Kramer himself. The exchange between John Kramer and Bobby at Dagen’s book signing is epic, and not just because John is donning a backward baseball cap, seemingly as a disguise; it’s satisfying because we, the audience, know something that Bobby Dagen doesn’t: he’s about to incur the wrath of Jigsaw and, more than likely, meet his maker. I enjoyed this entire storyline, and I thought that Sean Patrick Flanery was excellent in this role.

Bobby is tasked with completing a series of traps where he has to save those who are accomplices in his deception, such as his publicist and lawyer. In the end, he saves no one, but not before causing them, and himself, an immense amount of harm and torment. All of these traps are inventive, and I love how the final trial is based on the lie he built his fortune on. Poetic justice, indeed.

Being that this is a Saw movie, there is a police procedural element to it as well. Chad Donella, who looks like a poor man’s Ryan Gosling, plays Detective Matt Gibson. He’s campy as hell and fairly entertaining, but Gibson is borderline goofy, especially when he calls Jill “crazy” countless times, in a way that’s meant to be humorous, when questioning her. The detective work in this movie took a back seat to everything else, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s the weakest element of Saw 3D.

When it is revealed that Dr. Gordon is an accomplice of Jigsaw, he captures Detective Hoffman and chains him to the pipe in the bathroom from the first movie, casting away the saw he used to cut off his own foot, and slamming the door shut after uttering those legendary final words: “Game over!” Having the “final guy” from the first movie switch from protagonist to antagonist and dish out a heavy dose of Jigsaw goodness in the very room where this all started, was the perfect way to put the cherry on top of this intricately constructed, yet wonderfully satisfying, ice cream sundae known as the Saw franchise.

Saw 3D lives up to the hype, and it’s still just as good 11 years later. Despite the lead detective being a bit lame, everything else in this film is intense and epic. From the outdoor trap in the opening scene, featuring hundreds of onlookers, to Bobby’s trial, Saw 3D is jam packed with lovingly crafted insanity. Bringing the series to an end by wrapping up the Detective Hoffman and Jill Tuck storyline, as well as incorporating Dr. Gordon’s triumphant return, made for a satisfying conclusion. Adding in Bobby’s storyline freshened things up, while addressing the popularity of Jigsaw and his traps. Having watched all of the Saw movies countless times, Saw 3D was the payoff I was looking for, and it didn’t disappoint. More importantly, it still holds up more than a decade later. Watch or don’t watch: make your choice.

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