IT'S BEEN SAID that all the big horror franchises of the last three decades have owed their success, at least in part, to tapping into conservative American values. (As Scream pointed out 15 years ago, underage sex, drugs, and drinking are a one-way ticket to a knife in the back.) But with six previous films under its belt, no franchise has cashed in on our Puritan roots with as much financial success as Saw and its slew of sequels.
Each Saw film is split between two parts: The first concerns the continuing saga of the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), his wife and henchmen, and the intrepid cops intent on stopping him. (This is known as "the boring part.") But the series' real reason for existing is its thuddingly moralistic torture porn. Like murderous Tea Partiers, Jigsaw and his buddies think many Americans have lost their way and need to be reminded of their basic scruples; naturally, this righteousness is instilled through nasty Rube Goldberg contraptions that will teach you a life lesson and/or eviscerate you.
This time, Jigsaw has some really important lessons, each delivered via combinations of puppet, VHS tape, and (I shit you not) sinister eight-track. First off, don't get involved in a love triangle... unless you want someone in that love triangle to be buzz-sawed in half. Secondly, if you are a racist skinhead (especially one played by Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington), you may be forced to pull your friend's face off with a Trans Am.
Ah, but most of Saw VII's teachings are reserved for Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery), a staple of the self-help and talk-show circuit who's been making a living off of pretending he survived one of Jigsaw's traps. Don't you know lying is immoral, Bobby? Someone oughta kill you and everyone you love!
Things you should know: Despite how this film is being promoted, there's no real indication this is the last of the Saw movies. (The producers of the most lucrative horror franchise in history are more likely to cut their own legs off than pull the plug now.) Also, the 3D is pretty unimpressive—a few teeth fly at the camera, but it's hardly worth your $13. That said, you already know if you want to see Saw VII: If you think Milton Bradley's Mousetrap would be improved by a bear trap mask that ripped people's heads open, then this is the movie for you. Just like the last six.