Driving out to see Saw 3D on a Friday afternoon I thought to myself, what an exquisitely depressing thing to do. I went to a nearby multiplex; on the way, briefly, it seemed like I could be driving on a country road; fall colors surrounded me, red, orange, etc. Then the Saucon Valley Promenade Shops appeared, an outdoor mall that simulates some kind of small town experience, I don’t know which one. I felt vaguely anxious, but I don’t think that effect is intended. In this post-modern wasteland is found Rave Cinemas. I asked the guy in the booth if he’d seen the film. He said it was good. Once inside, I found that the previews hadn’t even started yet; I joined a fellow moviegoer and we expressed our indignation to the usher, and soon enough the previews started to roll.
I haven’t seen any of the other Saw movies; I figured it wouldn’t really matter much. I think Saw 3D is the seventh installment. I wonder if it would be more profitable just to change a few elements here and there so it has nothing to do with the others and can have a new title, like Bloody Games or Most Dangerous Power Tools. Its status as a sequel might attract the series’ followers, but as a seventh installment, new viewers might be deterred.
In Saw 3D a survivor from one of the other installments finds himself faced a second time with a tortuous set of trials all involving painful feats of strength. The goal is to save his wife within one hour. Along the way, he has the opportunity to save some other people from his life that are trapped in assorted mechanical death devices that poke, prod, rip, and slice. Whether or not he is successful at saving his friends, he still progresses towards his wife. While all of this is going on, an internal affairs officer attempts to track down the criminal mastermind who apparently works in the homicide department. There are story elements that seemed like they resolved unanswered questions about the rest of the series, so if anyone out there is looking for the key to the Saw enigma, I guess it can be found here.
Obviously Saw 3D is gruesome. Still, it lacked that ability that some films have to make us really cringe over the suffering we witness – perhaps because the whole affair is so B seeming that it’s impossible to take any of it that seriously. Not that we make a joke of it, because unfortunately Saw 3D doesn’t have much camp value. That could have made things fun. Who knows, though; perhaps it will age in such a way that ten years from now it will seem like a real cheer. Camp, or at least self-awareness, in B horror films goes a long way; there has to be some sense that a film knows that it stretches our credulity, otherwise it’s all the more difficult to buy into the experience. Last summer’s Drag Me to Hell was a great example of film that had great scare value but all the while kept us laughing.
On the way back from the theater, I wondered if Saw 3D had any value as an instance of popular culture. I’ve got to write about something, after all. Certainly, there is something interesting about a theater in an outdoor mall that simulates a small town showing a film about gruesome torture and death. Actually, in theory Saw 3D could be far more interesting than it actually is – it could say something about love, death, and cruelty. The potential is there. But there’s not much of that. So perhaps Saw 3D says something about the point our culture has reached. Perhaps the Rave Cinemas, nestled in the faux-downtown of the Saucon Valley Promenade Shops, and Saw 3D suggest something about the vapidity and meaninglessness of things.
Or perhaps it’s just a trite horror flick the ends a series of other trite horror flicks, and there’s nothing more to be said.