Terminally ill serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) continues ensnaring sad sacks in lethal games, this time from his deathbed, in Saw III, though to its credit, director Darren Lynn Bousman’s second contribution to the Halloween-timed franchise has slightly more kick than his prior effort. Without any differentiation in color palette, editorial structure, tone, or quantity of blood from its predecessors, this latest gory go-round picks up where last year’s film ended, following Jigsaw and apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) as they kidnap a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) and force her to keep Jigsaw alive—via an explosive collar that’ll detonate if the fiend’s heart-rate falls—just long enough to watch another captive, Jeff (Angus Macfadyan), perform a succession of horrific tests. As before, salvation is achievable through bodily sacrifice, yet series creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell (responsible for the story, with Whannell scripting) bring a bit more heft to their decaying conceit by having Jeff’s ordeal be crafted by Jigsaw not only as a lesson in the perils of vengeance, but also in the necessity of letting go of past misfortunes, the tragedy in question being the death of Jeff’s young son. Faced with the choice of saving those responsible for his kid’s demise (as well as the culprit’s light punishment) by suffering pain, or being condemned by Jigsaw to a worse, unspecified fate, Jeff is compelled to confront both his anger and his grief, a more nuanced predicament that, during a sequence in which Jeff is asked to save a judge from drowning in slaughtered pig goo by burning the physical reminders of his son’s life (photographs, stuffed animals, etc.), even flirts with emotional gravity. In general, however, Saw III simply peddles gruesomeness of a disgusting rather than frightening order, its intricate deathtrap set pieces only barely complemented by the tense rapport between Jigsaw and Amanda, and eventually impaired by the filmmakers’ desire, through furious flashbacks, to link all three Saw movies together into a grand Jigsaw-masterminded plot that’s elaborate to the point of absurdity.
- Darren Lynn Bousman
- Leigh Whannell
- Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer, J. Larose
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