‘Saw 3D’ more in-your-face than predecessors

New York: Billing itself as the climactic chapter in the hugely successful horror franchise (yeah, right), ‘Saw 3D’ offers the usual elaborate torture porn set pieces that its fans have grown to know and love.

Upping the ante in terms of the number of "traps" -- eleven, boast the publicity materials -- and inconsequential 3D, this seventh instalment does at least provide a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the series in the unlikely event they choose to give it a rest.

Directed by long-time series editor Kevin Greutert, who graduated to his current position with "Saw VI," the film is consistent both stylistically and thematically with the previous editions. It begins with a typically twisted sequence in which two men faced imminent evisceration have to decide whether to sacrifice one of themselves or their two-timing girlfriend.

(Considering the huge base of young men who constitute the franchise`s core audience, you can pretty much guess how it goes.)

From there, two parallel story lines emerge. The first involves a best-selling, self-help guru, Bobby Dragen (Sean Patrick Flanery), who runs support groups for former Jigsaw sufferers despite the fact that his own tale is fictional.

The other involves Jigsaw`s evil accomplice Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who continues the twisted genius` legacy even while pursuing personal vendettas against Jigsaw`s widow (Betsy Russell) and seemingly the entire police department.

Unlike most of the previous instalments, which featured a diverse set of victims, "Saw 3D" concentrates mainly on Bobby`s efforts to save his wife by running a gauntlet of grisly "games" threatening his girlfriend and hapless associates.

The filmmakers` cleverness seems to be lagging here, as most of the traps lack the Rube Goldberg-style cleverness that marked the series, although the blood and guts quotient certainly remains high.

And while Jigsaw is undeniably old-school, isn`t it about time he graduated from cassette tapes to CDs to deliver his ominous messages?

It`s unfortunate that the creators killed off their villain so early in the series, since Mandylor`s Hoffman is an exceedingly bland stand-in. That`s demonstrated about halfway through the film in a flashback sequence in which the charismatic Tobin Bell makes a brief appearance, providing more electricity to the proceedings in a few minutes of quiet conversation than all of the horrific episodes combined.

Although shot in 3D, the visual impact is negligible, with viewers only occasionally having to duck the odd bit of viscera or entrails thrown their way.

Long-time fans will certainly appreciate the return of Cary Elwes` Dr. Gordon, a character who was tormented by Jigsaw in the original film and who here is instrumental in the clever final plot twist.

Bureau Report