If it's Halloween, it must be "Saw." And if it's "Saw," it must be God awful.
Jigsaw (a nearly catatonic Tobin Bell) has inched closer to death, and enlists his subordinate Amanda (Shawnee Smith) to kidnap a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) to help sustain his ugly existence for one more hellish game. The target is a father (Angus Macfayden) who lost his son to a reckless driver years back, and is unable to resume the life he once knew. Racing against time, Jigsaw sends this man on an obstacle course of death while Amanda, once in awe of her master, struggles to understand her place in this marathon of pain.
By now, I get it. Audiences have lapped up the "Saw" franchise because it gives them the icks at the time of year when that's the only criteria movies need to fill; however, when I sit down with a "Saw" film, I see minimal effort and appalling directorial swagger. It's hard to appreciate the candied chills of this "torture porn" when I can't get my mind off how atrocious every performance is, how cheap the sets look, and how repetitive the scripting has become.
Again, I'm overthinking it, but "Saw III" picks up where the last film left off by burrowing into my brain with its inexcusable lack of panache. Over the last few years we've seen directors like Rob Zombie and Alexandre Aja work genre miracles by putting in the effort to rise above expectations, while also keeping their pimp hand firmly on what the gorehounds want. The "Saw" films couldn't care less about quality, as long as someone gets their torso ripped open or drowns in a sickly green malt of rotted pig entrails (what this film pushes as homicidal progress).
Not shockingly, "Saw III" is just like "Saw" and "Saw II," yet this time there's an inflated sense of importance that lends the film a "Return of the Jedi" scope, but with considerably less Ewok. Writer Leigh Whannell (who scripted and co-starred in the original film) positions the sequel as the final act of this blood-drenched opera, stealing attention away from the kills that have become cat-nip to fans to explore the backstory of Jigsaw and Amanda. Yeah, that's right, it turns out all Jigsaw ever wanted was a hug. Blech. "Saw III" is yet another reason why filmmakers should never select a demystification route for their horror icons when beating a dead horse for outrageous coin.
Returning from his "Saw II" directing duties is Darren Lynn Bousman. Essentially a hired studio stooge, Bousman doesn't deviate much from his previous M.O.: slopping on the gore and the twisting, snapping limbs. Just like "Saw" director James Wan, Bousman is deathly afraid to show any of the lunacy clearly, leaving most of the money shots (outside of a vivid brain surgery sequence) decimated by rapid-fire editing that serves no real purpose.
Heaven forbid Bousman actually pays attention to the performances either. With most of the cast over-emoting in ludicrous, direct-to-video fashion, the trophy for worse acting job goes to Macfayden, a perennial ham with the worse male scream in the business and a sucker for performances without boundaries. Watching him emote in Hulk-like fashion is more painful than anything the Jigsaw could dream up.
Following the scripting template, "Saw III" ends with a twist, which then ends with a twist, leaving a little room for another twist. Evidently, Whannell is running out of ideas how to keep the fans on their toes, so he maneuvers this "Saw" into purely absurd plotting for the final movement, trusting the "Price is Right" death games to mask the reality that this franchise has started to consume it self to stay alive.
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