This year’s Saw is in 3D, which makes for some buzzsaw-in-your-face and guts-splattered-on-your-glasses action, but is one of the less satisfying entries in the hardy franchise, and certainly a step down from last year’s much more pointed Saw VI.
Cary Elwes, the doctor who lost a foot back in Saw, returns to the series (cuing another explanatory montage that fills in more of the evolving backstory) and something we’ve been threatened with ever since the first film finally happens (spectacularly and messily). However, this middling effort suffers from a thinly-conceived main thread about bogus celebrity (though Celebrity Saw remains a great idea) that has less resonance than last year’s assault on the American medical insurance racket, a bucketful of leftover plot threads about the feuding heirs to Jigsaw’s trap business – will Hoffman avenge himself on Kramer’s widow (Betsy Russell) and can you remember who all the players are? - and the relative absence of the dead-since-Saw III real Jigsaw (Tobin Bell).
There are one or two ingenious challenges, though repetition has dulled the original charge of these Mouse-Trap-With-Gore set-pieces, and the beginnings of a nice idea in the self-help group for mutilated veterans of previous sequels. After one survivor has tearfully explained that her ordeal made her a better person, someone who hasn’t learned their lesson snaps ‘you know what’s the best thing about being made to cut off my own arm? Handicapped parking at the mall.’