Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Produced by Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules, Mark Burg
Written by Leigh Whannel
Director of Photograpy David A. Armstrong
Music by Charlie Clouser
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer
2006/113 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD
It's been said that in business nothing succeeds like success and nowhere is that statement more accurate than in Hollywood. The movie business will pounce on a hot trend like few other industries. For example, if a certain type of movie becomes popular, expect to see several imitators. But nowhere is this more evident than in sequels. And no recent movie series exemplifies the drive to capitalize on success like the SAW films. Sure there have been other horror series which have spawned multiple sequels in a short amount of time (many of which appear in the direct-to-video realm), but there have been three SAW movies in three years and a fourth has been announced. SAW III has just debuted on DVD and it will be interesting to see if this is a worthy sequel or simply an attempt to make more money.
(SPOILER WARNING: In order to discuss the events portrayed in SAW III, I must divulge what happened in SAW II. If you haven't seen SAW II and want to be surprised, than you may want to avoid reading the bulk of this review.) SAW III picks up immediately after the events of SAW II, and presents two divergent storylines. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), who as we know has terminal cancer, lingers on the brink of death. His protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), has abducted a doctor, Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), to prolong Jigsaw’s life. Lynn is told that if she can keep Jigsaw alive long enough for his final “game”, that she will be free to go. This game involves Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a man whose young son was killed by a drunk driver. Since that time, Jeff has dwelled on nothing but thoughts of vengeance. Jigsaw and Amanda has created an elaborate series of tests for Jeff where he will encounter individuals involved in his son’s death. If Jeff can learn to forgive, then he can go free. As Jeff traverses these challenges, Lynn fights to keep Jigsaw alive. Will anyone survive Jigsaw’s coup de grace?
SAW III comes from the same creative team who brought us the previous films. The story was created by James Wan (director of SAW) and Leigh Whannell (co-writer of the first two films) -- who wrote the screenplay -- and the film was directed by SAW II director Darren Lynn Bousman. Thus, we would expect things to be consistent with the first two films. But, they aren’t. SAW III plays like an amalgam of the first two movies, yet it doesn’t measure up to the earlier chapters in the series.
For me, the problems with SAW III came down to the story. The scripts in SAW and SAW II both resembled one of Jigsaw's puzzles as they twisted and turned upon themselves. SAW dealt with two men trapped in a room, neither of whom trusted the other. SAW II brought us a group of people placed in dire circumstances, with the possibility that one could be a spy for Jigsaw. Both of these films gave us stories which kept us guessing and this unpredictability put the viewer on edge. Yet, with SAW III, the story is much more linear. We get the plots dealing with Lynn and Jeff and they move along on a fairly normal trajectory. Yes, there are some turns along the way, but it's not until the last five minutes that we get any sort of major twists. The other problem with the story is that the victims here are too anonymous. In the first two films, there an attempt at character development -- this was an especially significant leap in SAW II as there were so many characters. Here, we get Jeff encountering people whom we don't know at all and we asked to care about them as they experience one of Jigsaw's traps. This leads to absolutely zero suspense in these scenes. The story with Lynn is somewhat more compelling, but even then, it's hard to care. Do we want Lynn to save Jigsaw? Should this madman be allowed to live? The film's nadir involves a surgery scene which goes on forever. (According to IMDB.com, where information should always be taken with a grain of salt, the shooting script for SAW III was completed in a week. For some reason, I believe this.)
Despite the weak story, SAW III still has its moments. There is nothing that can compare to the "needle pit" scene in SAW II -- which, for my money, is THE standout moment in all three films -- but there are some cringe-worthy moments. There is a certain scene involving an ankle which made me (and the people with me) all jump and turn away from the screen. The traps aren't as elaborate or interesting in this film as in the previous ones -- which actually makes sense as Amanda has taken over for Jigsaw -- but they are certainly still worth a look, and the one with the pigs must be seen to be believed. As noted above, the plot twists finally arrive in the last five minutes of the movie, and these scenes are quite intense. As with SAW and SAW III, the final moment of SAW III leaves the viewer on edge and nervous.
Based on the events in the film, SAW III is the end of a trilogy, although not the end of the series. As with some famous trilogies, this group of films ends on a down note. The movie is interesting and a must-see for fans of the series. But, don't expect the same response from SAW III that you got from the first two films.
SAW III cuts into DVD courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in three different versions (more on that in a moment). For the purposes of this review, only the unrated widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (Again, according to IMDB.com, the aspect ratio for the movie was 1.85:1. Is this another case where Lionsgate tampered with the OAR?) SAW III retains the dark, desaturated, somewhat grainy look of the previous films. Considering this, the image looks fine, as it's very sharp and clear. The colors in the film are often toned down, save for the red blood. The movie features many whip-pans and jump-cuts, but there is no on-screen stuttering or video noise during these moments. The DVD carries only a Dolby Digital 5.1 (no DTS?) audio track. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie has a great sound design and this is brought to life by the dynamic surround sound and subwoofer effects. The film is filled with jarring noises and music and they certainly add to the movie.
The SAW III DVD contains only a few extra features, which, of course, implies that a special edition will arrive at some point. The R-rated and Unrated DVDs both contain the following extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with director Darren Lynn Bousman, writer/executive producer Leigh Whannell, and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. This is a good commentary, as the trio talk at length about the production of the film. They keep their comments scene specific while touching on script, sets, actors, and shooting techniques. The DVD contains 2 DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. One is quite short, while the other is an extended scene between Amanda and Lynn. "The Traps of SAW III" (9 minutes) features behind-the-scenes footage of the traps being built and the trap scenes being shot. "The Props of SAW III" (8 minutes) looks at the implements used in the film, most notably the construction of the "Billy" puppet. (Did I know he had a name?) Director Bousman gives us an inside look at the making of the film in "Darren's Diary" (9 minutes). The extras are rounded out by the THEATRICAL TRAILER and the THEATRICAL TEASER. The unrated DVD also features two additional commentaries. One with producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg (OK, a little dry) and one with Bousman, editor Kevin Greutert and director of photography David A. Armstrong (this is a good commentary because Bousman goes off on the MPAA).
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©