Dir: Darren Lynn Bousman. US. 2006. 107mins.
Staying mostly faithful to the successful blueprintof its two earlier installments, while deepening the audience's connection withthe franchise's main character, Saw IIIis an adequate sequel that works well enough on its own terms. Saw aficionados should be satisfied bythe results, although the less fanatic will have to endure some shakyperformances and the diminishing returns of a once-clever premise.
The film, like the previoustwo, opened on the last weekend in October to take advantage of Halloween,bringing in an estimated $34m in the
As a brain tumor leaves him atdeath's door, serial killer Jigsaw/John Kramer (
Meanwhile Jigsaw has alsocaptured Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a bitter, suicidalman still mourning the death of his son in a car accident. Jeff must play oneof Jigsaw's elaborate puzzle games if he wants to escape the killer's compound.
In an era of uninspiredhorror remakes and ruthless splatter films, the Saw series boasts two unique elements: the killer's ingeniouslyconcocted games that test his captives' will to stay alive; and his twistedmotivation as a dying man who wants to "teach" his victims the importance ofappreciating the lives they've selfishly taken for granted.
Though hardly profound,these elements have given the films some emotional underpinnings andintelligence to go along with the du rigeur scenes of torture and carnage.
Film-maker Darren Lynn Bousman, who also directed Saw II, maintains a dark and vile atmosphere throughout, focusingon the horror and not the performances. However, since the new film seeks tosolidify the bond between Jigsaw and his unstable, co-dependent protege Amanda,Saw III requires a deeper resonancethan its predecessors for it to be effective.
But while Tobin Bellcontinues to be this trilogy's heart and soul - giving Jigsaw a dignifiedmenace without a trace of ham - Shawnee Smith's overly hysterical turn asAmanda makes her insufferable.
An unspoken irony about the Saw films is that despite his cruelinstruments of torment, Jigsaw's elevated consciousness ultimately makes himmore civilised and humane than his petty, ungratefulvictims, and that reality certainly comes through in the acting - you'd ratherspend time with him than with any of the screaming, swearing one-note cipherscaught in his web.
Much like the
Indeed, for the majority ofthe running time, Jeff's subplot is the film's least interesting section,playing out as a repetitive, obvious test of whether or not he can finallyforgive those who allowed his son to die and end his quest to avenge thekilling.
Fans of the first twoinstallments have come to expect a third-act twist that brings together thedisparate plot strands, and Saw III's iscraftily done, although as with Jeff's game it's not nearly as much fun as inthe earlier movies. While the Sawseries has cemented its reputation on the merits of its maniacally gruesomeambiance, the well-established plot elements - and
For those who have made a Saw screening part of their annualHalloween tradition, the enjoyment of the frighteningly unexpected might meanless at this point than the limited pleasures of the reliably predictable.
Daniel Jason Heffner
from a story by Leigh Whannell and James Wan
David A Armstrong