Sunday, March 20, 2011


Another Halloween, another "Saw" movie. The second movie was one of the most profitable in the series, with a domestic box-office of 86 million dollars and a total of 147 million dollars grossed worldwide, all on a budget of just 4 million. It's easy to figure out that the people over at Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures started thinking about how they could milk the franchise for more money. They even had the tagline say : "If it's Halloween, it must be 'Saw'". Director Darren Lynn Bousman once again returns to the franchise, as well as veteran "Saw" writer Leigh Whannell. This was the last installment written by Whannell.

"Saw II" established in its twist ending that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has an apprentice : Amanda (Shawnee Smith). Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) is still missing and the movie opens with a little insight into his fate post-"Saw II". Six months later, the police, of course, is still clueless. Hot on Jigsaw's trail they've just discovered a new victim. They suspect something has changed in the way the sick games are played out, because the victim was not given a fair chance to survive, but they just can't quite put the pieces together, yet. Soon enough, a new game begins. Meet contestant #1, Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), a depressed neurosurgeon kidnapped from a hospital without anyone noticing and girdled with an explosive collar. Her goal in the game is to keep a dying John Kramer alive while contestant #2, Jeff, finishes his game. Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a grieving father, whose son was the victim of a hit-and-run car accident, must finish a maze where the ususal "live or die" becomes "forgive or avenge".

Jigsaw and Amanda, master and apprentice.
"Saw III" came at a point in the franchise were several plot elements needed some form of resolution. So a great deal of the running time is spent resolving loose ends from the previous movies, through flashbacks. This makes "Saw III" the longest movie in the franchise, clocked at aprixmatively 2 hours for the Director's Cut, and around 107 minutes for the theatrical version. This is probably the worst thing about it. It's long, disjointed and confusing for anyone who hasn't seen the previous movies. This is where the series truly starts to fumble. The plot becomes so convoluted that it distracts from the serial killer agenda and ruins the simple gory formula that the previous two movies got right. The traps also strain credibility, as they grow more and more complex, to the point where it's hard to believe a sick man and his apprentice could build them. Not to mention the ever increasing number of people getting kidnapped for these games. Some potential explanations will follow in the next sequels, but not nearly as satisfying as I would have liked. The twists are interesting enough, but there's a constantly nagging feeling that the plot has been overcooked. Beneficial to the story is that the protagonist of the game this time around can generate a lot of sympathy, making the things he goes through even more affecting and ultimately more involving.

He's a little 'chained up' at the moment.
The gore is just horribly over-the-top, though. There are scenes that will have you look the other way and cover your ears. The franchise seems to accelerate the quantity of blood and guts with each new iteration, as well as the decibel level of the screaming. It's almost as if the writers decided to fill the plot holes with buckets of blood and high-concept torture porn. The traps are not as creative as you might expect, but they sure are gruesome. No part of the body is left untouched by the end of this movie and by that I mean ripped, torn, sliced, twisted, broken, crushed, blown up, shot or frozen. Yes, that's right, frozen. You'll see.

Mesmerized by the possibility of a lengthy franchise, everyone involved in making "Saw III" worked just a little too hard at creating a mythology and completely forgot to give people outside the series something to enjoy. Instead of working out the problems that plagued the previous movies, they just added more things that just don't work properly. Still, it's not that bad, especially considering how horrible some of the next installments are.

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