SAW III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006)
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the twisted mastermind of the SAW films, likes to test damaged people's limits to see how much they want to keep on living, no matter how bad they feel their lives are. That's a fair description for the experience of the challenge posed in watching SAW III, a more-of-the-same second sequel that licks its chops at the harm inflicted on the characters. I know I've just about reached my breaking point in enduring yet another so-called horror movie that wallows in the ugliest human impulses for "fun".
For this third go-round, the bedridden Jigsaw has his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) abduct Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), a surgeon in a broken marriage, to tend to his medical needs. Lynn's job is to keep him alive while Amanda monitors another of his games. To keep Lynn motivated, a contraption with cocked triggers and shotgun shells is placed around her neck. If Jigsaw's heart stops or she tries to go too far away, kablam.
Elsewhere in the same decrepit building, a grieving father is marched through one of Jigsaw's shock therapy games. Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) cannot let go of his anger over the accidental death of his son and wishes to exact revenge upon the lightly sentenced perpetrator. Jigsaw may grant him his wish, although viewers of the first two SAW films know that Jeff won't want to follow through on the opportunity.
With films such as HOSTEL raising the stakes for on-screen depictions of cruelty and torture, the makers of SAW III must feel obligated to give the franchise a little more gore for the greenbacks. It's not the most violent and stomach-turning film to come out this year, but believe it or not, there's a more sadistic streak than was found in the original or SAW II. Two horrific deaths are shown before the main story begins. Neither move along SAW III'S plot, so the inclusion of these scenes is truly gratuitous.
The same applies to the distasteful use of female nudity in a torture setting and a single utterance of a still generally taboo word for female genitalia. What other choice is there if the competition is pushing the envelope? Three SAW films have exhausted the concept. This box office golden goose has a future of going more extreme and making "the beginning" movies about Jigsaw, a direction suggested a few times here.
SAW III is essentially a grim schoolyard game of "would you rather...?" rendered in nasty vignettes. Yes, it's only a movie, but there's enough pain and suffering in the world that consuming this as entertainment seems obscene.