Monday, October 30, 2006


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.

Grade: D


  1. Anonymous11:37 PM

    After three decades of Stalk 'n Slash, why has the horror film suddenly gone to torture the helpless victim?

    The first bloom of American torture films such as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE came to prominence as America's disgust with its' role in Vietnam reached critical mass. Both Hooper and Craven claimed their films were reations to the the violence of the war. The latest resurgence, spearheaded by the SAW films, comes as we are coming to terms with our actions in Iraq. The images of Vietnam, such as the infamous 'Mai Lai' photos fomented the countries uneasy feelings of guilt towards what we were doing in Asia and anger toward our governments deceptions.

    There have been few images more indelible to our collective psyche than the beheadings of journalists and the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib. These photos and film clips have incited both blood lust and disgust, leaving the public feeling both angry and soiled. Calling for revenge and yet queasy about the blood on our hands from the actions of our government. SAW III is the first film in the series that fully embraces the role of torture guilt inquisitor. The character seeking vengeance is repeatedly asked whether he wants to allow the torture of those responsible for his son's death. Jigsaw repeatedly tells him that torturing the guilty will only make him feel worse. In the end, his inability to control his rage causes his own wife's death.

    A less well executed link to the post-9/11 psyche is the relationship between Amanda and Jigsaw. She is shown as a brainwashed acolyte, similar to a suicide bomber, who goes overboard in her zeal for a cause she doesn't really understand. "I give you every cell in my body." etc.

    That's my take.

  2. Anonymous11:42 AM

    i really liked your point of view about the saw 3 movie..
    it wasn´t one of the best movies ever...but some of the death szenes were nice.

    i also found this site in the web, which shows the real best deaths in horrormovies ever.
    you should take a look, if you are a fan too.

    happy halloween

    the link is


  3. To the first commenter... I've read similar takes on the current batch of horror porn/torture chic films, but I just don't see such ideas in the texts of the movies. You make a cogent argument, but I'm inclined to consider it a clever extratextual view that grants the filmmakers and audience more credit than they're due.

    Maybe Saw III emerged from the national collective unconscious and speaks to us in a "safe" way about these issues, but I think that's a stretch.