I have been avoiding the popular Saw movie series like the plague. While I am a horror movie fanatic, I view “horror” and “slasher” movies as separate genres. I realize that, in critic’s minds, they are one and the same. However, I define horror movies as films that can give the audience a good scare without resulting to 90 minutes of blood and guts. Obviously, on the other hand, slasher movies are all about blood and guts.
I decided that in order to be completely objective concerning this series, I needed to watch at least one of the three films. I chose the latest one “Saw III” for several reasons. First, I wanted to see if the moviegoer would understand what was going on without having seen the first two films. Second, I wanted to see how gory it might actually be, since each film in a series tends to get progressively worse. Lastly, I kept hearing it touted as the “best Saw ever!”
I stand by my original statement. The Saw series is an insult to true horror aficionados. It is a slasher film, plain and simple. It is a slasher film with an actual story, which is truly rare within that genre. Nonetheless, it is nothing but a slasher film.
In “Saw III” the notorious Jigsaw has, once again, set up a series of games for his victims to play in order to choose life or death. The movie begins in the middle of one such game. A man is shackled by the foot to a wall in a cold, dark, damp room. Just out of his reach are a gun and a flashlight. By romoving his boot and using it as an extension of his arm, he manages to get hold of both items. Of course, the gun is empty. He uses the flashlight to check out his surroundings. After doing so, he has a pretty good idea of what is going on and realizes that he can only get free with his own initiative and courage.
This sets up a series of three such games. The second one involves a career criminal and his penchant for continuing to break the law. He is chained at the shoulders, wrists, abdomen, legs, and face. The masked Jigsaw, on the video he views while in captivity, accuses him of being more comfortable in chains than with freedom. The game challenges him to choose freedom over the chains.
The third game involves a young coroner who is suspended in mid air by some kind of medieval torture device. She essentially has to choose her beauty or her life.
I’m not quite sure what these three sick, twisted, perverse tales have to do with the actual story plot of this particular film. I do not know if they are tie-overs from earlier film versions or just a way of setting the stage for how truly disgusting the rest of this movie is going to be. The truth is that I don’t care what there purpose was. They appeared to serve none other than to shock and horrify.
The shame about this movie is that the actual plot itself is intriguing. Who knew that a slasher film could actually have a plot in the first place; much less a good one? This one even has a moral. In the hands of a gifted horror writer and a talented director, this movie could have been great without all of the gore. I’ll give you a cliff notes version:
Jigsaw is dying from a brain tumor. He gets is “pet” lady friend (named Amanda) to kidnap a young female doctor to help keep him alive. She wires the doctor to detonate if Jigsaw’s heart flat lines. However, he tells her if she can keep him alive until his latest victim finishes playing his game, then he will let her live.
The victim of this game is a father who lost his son to a car accident. Apparently, the judge opted to only give the boy’s murderer six months in jail. The father, who has never recovered from his son’s demise, wants revenge on those he holds responsible. Because he does get it, he has put his life one hold; ignorning his wife and his little girl.
The game finally allows him to confront three of his revenge targets. The first is a young woman who saw the accident but did not report what she saw. Apparently, her testimony would have led to a longer conviction for the murderer. The second is the judge who handed down the sentence. The third is the young man who drove the car that hit and killed his son.
In each instance, the father is given the option of watching each person die an excruciatingly painful death or forgive their crime and save their life. Each is a gut-wrenching decision and not such an easy one to make. I’m not going to tell you the outcome, on the off chance you want to see the film.
Once the father makes it through the three tests, he is allowed to confront Jigsaw himself. What he does not understand is that his decision in this final challenge has epic repercussions.
As I said, the plot is intriguing. Still, I take exception to the methods used to carry it out. I think they were overtly sadistic. I personally never want to meet the man or woman – – screenplay writer Leigh Whannell – – whose mind can conceive such degrading, demeaning, destructive, and disgusting thoughts.
As far as direction, I have to admit that director Darren Lynn Bousman did what he could with a rather dismal piece of material and second rate actors. But that’s not saying much.
Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw, is just Tobin Bell. His characters are always the same; dark, menacing, and psychotic. There is nothing new here.
Shawnee Smith, who plays his puppet Amanda, also plays the same role she plays in just about everything; a deeply disturbed young woman with no self-esteem and even fewer morals.
The only shining light of this film is Angus Macfadyen’s portrayal of the father. He is able to show deep emotion through his eyes, a simple change of expression, the change in his posture, and the tilt of his head. You can actually feel the anguish he suffers as he is forced to make decision after decision regarding those responsible for his son’s death.
I’m undecided about Bahar Soomekh who played the doctor forced to keep Jigsaw alive. She actually has a few good moments in the movie. However, in others she severely overacts the scene. I suspect this actress has talent but she needs more experience.
I have loved Dina Meyer since her days in “Starship Troopers.” However, her brief and uninspired performance here is disappointing as are the remaining “victim” actors in this gruesome film.
If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I hate this movie! I think it is a shameful waste of a decent plot in order to rack up the blood and gore. I give it one out of five stars, and that is just for what could have been a great horror story.
“Saw III” is a Lions Gate release in conjunction with Twisted Pictures. It is 113 minutes in length and carries a seriously stretched R rating for violence.