The ‘Saw’ Movies in Review: ‘Saw III’
We watched the first and second movies in quick succession and found the sequel to be more than a little lacking. Working on the assumption that there has to be something more than hurried, cheap ideas to sustain this franchise we got straight into the third one. Did it offer any redemption?
Director: Darren Lyn Bousman
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfayden, Donnie Wahlberg, Dina Meyer, Bahar Soomekh, Lyriq Bent
Plot: The Jigsaw and his apprentice continue to evade the police and play their games of torture, although police note that some of the games cannot be ‘won’. Dr. Lynn Denlon is abducted by Amanda to keep Jigsaw alive while her husband is put through one of the ‘tests’.
Review: At first we were happy to pin the failings of the second film on first time director Bousman and his backwards cap as it felt like he was making a cheap imitation. He has kept his job for the third film and this one has turned out much more in the spirit of the original. This could be in part because of James Wan’s involvement in the script, maybe the director just got into his groove, either way this one is a step in the right direction.
Normally focusing more on the killer is a move in the wrong direction for any horror franchise. What we said about them lucking out with Tobin Bell being able to carry the role in the second film remains true here, as his presence adds quite a bit to the film mostly due to his shifting dynamic with apprentice Amanda (Smith). Dr. Denlon (Soomekh) is being forced (in part with a shotgun shell collar) to keep Jigsaw alive and Amanda’s unhinged presence doesn’t help matters. This dynamic creates some of the most intense sequences in the series thus far as we are subject to some intense amateur brain surgery along the way.
The other part of the narrative follows Jeff (Macfayden), a grieving father whose son was killed in a hit-and-run accident. In a clever twist, Jeff isn’t so much the victim in Jigsaw’s newest game but a player. He’s lead through three traps containing people he blames for his son’s death not seeing justice – a witness who didn’t come froward, the judge in the case and the driver himself. Jeff is forced to choose whether to let them get tortured to death or put himself through pain to save them. One is going to be frozen to death, one drowned in ground up, rotting pig carcass and one having his limbs twisted off.
This added aspect of psychological torture for Jeff and the focus on a smaller number of characters who can be better developed puts this story more in line with the original premise. Saw II seemed like a mindless ‘fuck you’ to Matthews (Wahlberg) with a bunch of people getting killed in ways that don’t fit Jigsaw’s established mission. This is much more engaging and makes the pay off that Jigsaw has been screwing with everyone the whole time more satisfying. It also means that the cliffhanger has some value, as we want to see it fulfilled.
What detracts from the quality is the new reliance on heavy gore for shock value. It became a heavily marketed part of the series from here on, with questionable reports of vomiting and fainting sprees across multiplexes. One thing it actually did was shine a light on how lazy the Australian classification system can be, as it was released with a 15+ restriction that was rapidly changed to an 18+ after complaints were made after release. At the end of the day it’s the mind games and story twists that made the first film memorable, not unrelating body gore. For one thing Dr. Lawrence hacking off his foot had a whole film to build up to rather than coming at the end of a long string of intestines. This is what put me off watching the films initially.
This works much better as a sequel to Saw. I’d suggest skipping over the second entirely if it wasn’t for the key plot elements. Here’s hoping this trend continues.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN
MOST HORRIFIC TRAP: It was a tight call between the Pig Grinder and the Rack. It’s easy to see why they left the Rack until the end because that was downright nasty looking, but personally I found the Pig Grinder utterly repulsive. Perhaps this is because I’m a delicate vegetarian but getting chocked to death on rotted meat is really disturbing.