It feels like it's been a while since a year to year horror franchise had won the hearts of audiences such as Saw has. It's been a while since we've been able to say there's been a strong horror franchise, period! In the eighties there had been running franchises that had brought the likes of Freddy and Jason to superstar status. The nineties ushered in a new age of horror with Wes Craven's Scream films. These unfortunately brought with them, countless other mainstream films that were aimed at making money from teenagers instead of giving you anything original.
Saw came around and brought a breath of fresh air into the new millennium of horror. A lot of credit goes to the film-makers behind this mind bending, watch with your eyes wide shut franchise. We're getting a lot of dark and gritty films thrown at us more and more. It's a shame that 'dark and gritty' is becoming a cliché in itself. Every time we turn around we have some pretty twisted and disturbing films popping up, and there's not many that can proudly say they stand on their own legs. Rob Zombie has been doing his own thing that works fairly well, but everything else is a remake. Hell, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning feels like a remake of a remake. With news of Saw III shortly after the release of its predecessor, I was pretty excited but not nearly as pumped as I was while anticipating Saw II. Let's face it, the third film in any trilogy is usually pretty disappointing.
Saw III had a lot to prove before it was even released. In fact, it had a lot to prove before Saw II even had hit DVD. The third film in the franchise was already promising to be one for the fans. More traps, more mess, and some revelations to keep the fans hooked. Lions Gate gave director Darren Lynn Bousman open reign to do whatever he wanted with Saw III. The first two brought in so much money compared to how much they cost to make, they knew that 'bigger' and 'nastier' would bring the audience back for more in round three. We got our promise fulfilled by Bousman thankfully. Throw in the blood, gore, and all the tests by Jigsaw and his apprentice all you want. The real test is if this film is going to be worth the price of admission based on the other overlooked stuff that go into flicks. You know, characters you care about, an interesting plot instead of gimmicks, that sort of stuff.
Saw III follows the increasingly hopeless and diseased Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). He's almost at the end of his rope, and instead of resting and enjoying his final moments on earth, he's opted to make a game out of it all in classic Jigsaw fashion times ten. He's bed-ridden and gets his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) to snag a doctor while clad in pig-face and robe cloth. The name of the game this time around, is to have the doctor (Bahar Soomekh) keep the criminal mastermind alive long enough to witness his final puzzle. The last 'masterpiece' Jigsaw may ever have the pleasure to be a part of involves a man who has been broken by the death of his young son a few years ago by a reckless driver. The father (Angus Macfayden) has clung to the past and has neglected a life and a daughter. He's now given a choice via a maze. He can go through and personally decide if those involved in the incident that let the killer off in only six months served in jail, should live or die. In order to make it through to the end where the driver/killer is waiting, he'll have to put himself in harms way of course.
When it comes down to the film achieving guts and glory, let's get down to business and talk about the guts first. This movie definitely exceeds expectations with having more traps, more blood, and more gore. That aspect has been wrapped up, packaged, mailed, delivered, and then exploded in our faces. Blood and guts don't really bother me. I'm usually grinning like a complete idiot when I see anybody losing a limb or having their body parts ripped apart. So please, take me very seriously when I say that I was cringing. Granted, it was a cringe from the brutality and I didn't take my eyes off of the screen because I absolutely love every second of it, but I was cringing!
Has the directorial style of a drunken MTV editor gone out the window? Nope. We still have some very fast paced editing with the intense music and loud sound effects to go with the fast forwarded camera spins. No expense has been spared there. As I said earlier, the dark and gritty style of movie magic is becoming almost a cliché of itself, and the fast paced editing to try and add effect is no exception. By now, this trick is old hat. Saw didn't really revolutionize this in any way but it did make some of the most effective use of this when it first came out. In a way it's obnoxious. You want to squirm and you want to wriggle around in your seat like a fish in Gollum's mouth. You want to see it all and see it up close. On the opposite end of the spectrum, not seeing can have more effect than actually viewing the gore itself. Saw III doesn't break away from the formula of its predecessors. It shows you just enough through its quick flash editing style to gross you out at times, while giving you something to think about at the same time. Saw III does also up the ante with some very goose bump inducing, up close and personal shots as well.
For the glory, a third feature in a trilogy seems to always up the ante though, while trying to give us some revelations and make us wonder if everything that happened was thought out in advance from the very first film. Bring the story full circle and give it closure. This is something Saw III also does very well. We get plenty of flashbacks to the other films and we get some closure on what happened in between the end of one flick to the beginning of the next as well. The loop holes from parts one and two are tied up tightly like a pair of Nike's, as we get revelations thrown at us from every possible angle and then some closure with the normal twist endings we've come to expect.
A bit of the acting in Saw III was a bit on the over acted side you might say. It's very theatrical as opposed to sounding more natural, but this franchise has been acted out in such a way from the very beginning. It puts you in a place where reality takes over with one of the scarier non-paranormal villains since Michael Myers had been turned into 'The Shape', while keeping you in a very theatrical story mode at the same time. It takes me back to the acting of an era we don't get to visit much anymore, so I'm not taking any points off for that.
My only qualm would be from Bahar who played the doctor. She was nailing her part for a while as an overly depressed woman who's in a pretty bad place in her life and takes pain killers to numb the pain. Once she's a prisoner that needs to do all she can to keep the diabolical murder Jigsaw alive, she's a little too calm. We get that she's smart and all but I really don't buy her desperation or her anything else she's trying to emote for that matter. The movie comes off in so many ways as a cheap budgeted film that has some old school acting in it that seems to be a little too much, which is fine. I dig the cheap set look as it's supposed to be dark and gritty, so throwing people in a dump to make it look based a little more on reality isn't a problem. Bahar comes off as a heroine who's playing it smart and cool, minus a select few scenes. We get her depression in the beginning, her desperation later in the film, but she doesn't really pull the whole package off together that well throughout the creamy caramel center of the picture.
Shawnee Smith continues to keep Amanda quite insane on a level that works. She's a talented actress and she really makes me want to see her as a villain in another flick. I turn on the TV once in a while and see her in a sitcom, and I just sort of laugh to myself when I think of her as Amanda. Tobin Bell also rocked the Kasbah as Jigsaw, yet again. He did well for the incredibly creepy voice in the first one. In the second one he came out of his shell and proved he could put that face with the voice and act to creep us the hell out.
Angus Macfayden was pretty believable as the confused guy in a Jigsaw maze, and his portion of the story filled out the trap and gore quota quite nicely. The rest of the film that's giving us revelation after revelation and tying up those time frames we haven't been able to explore yet gives us that relatable content with the people involved. That's what made the first couple of movies that much more intense. Eventually you cared about the characters, or knew enough about them in one way or the other to be able to feel for them. The part Macfayden plays is simply there throughout most of the movie to bring us the traps via the maze he's stuck inside. It seemed a bit gratuitous.
Saw III delivers on all the fronts that it should as a horror film, and as the ending of a trilogy. I know, saying 'the end of a trilogy' seems a bit pointless as they're already talking about number four. Do me a favor Lions Gate, quit while you're ahead. Everything in Saw III was done very well. Everything was tied up much to my own satisfaction and you really brought three great films to the horror genre that explains to all the other wannabe's, that you can make three horror movies and have all of them good. In fact, you might debatably say that each one exceeded the one before it. Saw III did have its minor issues in the way of acting and our connection with the characters involved outside of Amanda and Jigsaw. Other than that, Saw III was a stellar ending to a stellar series. With how gripping and intense some of the torture scenes were, I almost felt as if I was strapped into one of Jigsaw's puzzles myself. You couldn't have torn me away if you tried. I highly recommend Saw III to anybody looking for a treat that's sure to leave an impression within that's like a razor blade in your mouth on Halloween… before it somehow pulls your head apart in eight different pieces. It was claiming to be a film that was absolutely for the fans, and it succeeds with flying guts.