After a strong start, and a reinvention after killing its lead character, the SAW franchise has hit rock bottom. Billed as the final installment, SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER ends the series with a disappointing whimper. The film is more concerned with tying up the final remaining loose ends than it is in telling a compelling story.
SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER opens right at the ending of SAW VI. The film follows to storylines. The first focuses on Mark Hoffman (Coastas Mandylor), the apprentice of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). Hoffman’s secret identify has been discovered, and he’s on a mission to kill everyone that stands between him and anonymity – and his main targets are Gibson (Chad Donella), an internal affairs detective, and Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell). As compelling as this storyline shouldbe, it’s a total mess. Hoffman is incredibly unlikeable, and none of the other characters in his storyline are any better. Jill Tuck contains to become completely unlikeable – only now, inexplicably, her character becomes a damsel in distress. She spends the film hiding from Hoffman, and has never appeared weaker than in this film. It’s a terrible swan song for what could have been a memorable character. The film also introduces Gibson, mainly because it has killed off so many heroic and interesting characters that it needed to create a new role for the last film. Chad Donella plays Gibson so hammy that it’s almost painful to watch his performance. He’s completely unlikeable, and that makes the film filled with unlikeable characters. Without a single person to root for, it becomes a matter of rooting against characters instead – and that doesn’t make for a fun experience.
In the second storyline, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) rises to fame by claiming to be a survivor of Jigsaw. Before long, he finds himself kidnapped – awakening to find himself in an actual Jigsaw test. Surprisingly, the majority of the film surrounds Dagen’s storyline. It’s a very interesting premise – focusing on someone who claims to have survived a test, and then having to actually go through the test. However, the execution is extremely poor. The traps are gruesome, but fairly unmemorable. The whole storyline is very easy to predict, and it feels like the film is treading the same old ground. There’s nothing new – it’s just a standard Jigsaw test subplot that, ultimately, is very unfulfilling.
There are a couple cameos that were fun. Doctor Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) makes his first return to the SAW series since the first film. The film finally answers the longest running question in the entire series – what happened to Lawrence Gordon? The film also has a cameo from Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, in a throwaway role as a Jigsaw victim – but Bennington really owns that role for the few minutes of the film.
The one saving grace of SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER is that it has an outstanding twist ending. As nonsensical as it is, it’s extremely satisfying. It brings everything full circle to the original SAW and it does tie up just about every dangling loose end that the films have introduced. As disjointed as it overall is, it manages to stick the landing and closes out the series on a strong, high note.