This weekend sees the release of Saw 3D, the seventh and reportedly final installment in the Saw movie series. Though it's true that the Jigsaw Killer--the moralizing baddie and primary antagonist of the franchise, played by Tobin Bell--was killed off in Saw III, subsequent films have explored his legacy of successors who agree that the best way to get through to someone is to force them to dive into a vat of liquefied pig corpses. Saw 3D hasn't been received kindly by film critics, who agree, by and large, that it's time to put Billy the Puppet out to pasture.
Somehow, a Step Down From Saw VI Kim Newman at Empire proclaims Saw 3D "one of the less satisfying entries in the hardy franchise" and not as good as last year's installment, which at least contained an "assault on the American medical insurance racket." Ultimately, writes Newman, "there are a scattering of infallibly cringe-making horrors, but on the whole Saw 3D could do with more depth."
Their Worst Mistake Was Killing Jigsaw "It's no overstatement to say that Bell was terrific in this role, turning Jigsaw into a fascinating character who deserves a place among the best big-screen villains," writes Elizabeth Weitzman at the Daily News. "But ever since his character died, he's been reduced to appearing in brief flashbacks that simply remind us what we're missing." Weitzman wonders why Jigsaw is forced to live on in flashbacks, "when prequels would have allowed him to continue in the lead."
Put It to Bed Already "This corpse is cold and getting colder," writes Roger Moore at the Orlando Sentinel. "It's a humorless affair, murder by rote." Moore praises the performances of Cary Elwes and Tobin Bell, but adds that "most everybody else has read the credit lists for this series on the Internet Movie Database and realized no actor or filmmaker has 'graduated' from the 'Saw' abattoir and gone on to better things."
Can These Movies Be Healthy for Society? wonders Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. "Part of me is always wondering: How, and why, did movies this horrifying and grotesque ever become popcorn entertainment? Sure, in a queasy way, they're fun, but it also seems fair to ask whether there is some correspondence between the violence in a film like Saw 3D and the levels of anger and resentment that have been slowly and steadily rising in America ... The most disturbing aspect of the Saw films is the way that they turn torture into a wink of megaplex vengeance. They're made, and consumed, as a big bloody joke, and that's scary."
Upside: Traps Are Interesting, Other Stuff Kept to a Minimum At Variety, Rob Nelson dispenses a few qualified compliments. "The sole mercy shown by Lionsgate's latest 'Saw' is that it's billed as the last and plays that way, wrapping things up without the threat of making another killing after this one," Nelson writes. "The best that can be said for the pic, gamely directed by longtime 'Saw' cutter Kevin Greutert, is that it offers little in between the traps, which are more creatively vicious than they've ever been."
[Editor's note: For a quick-read summary of the first four Saw movies, see Kris Straub's gloss at Chainsawsuit.]