Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
November 2006

If you Saw one, you Saw them all…whoa, deja vu

The 'Saw' series continues to sink--and stink--in the third installment

Saw III
Lions Gate Films
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Bahar Soomekh, Angus Mcfadyen, Barry Flatman and Vicellous Shannon
Rated R / 1 hour, 47 minutes
Opened October 27, 2006
(out of four)

We're three movies into the Saw franchise, and it's already running out of ideas. The third installment of this generation's favorite horror series -- picking up where Freddy, Chucky, Jason and Michael Myers left off, only without any of the wit -- proves that the filmmakers are already running in circles.

Saw III tries to have a plot -- a few of them, actually -- but keeps on coming back to the first two entries in the series. Once again, we find ourselves back in the grimy bathroom in which most of the first film takes place. We return to characters we've already seen before, and who weren't very interesting in the first place. The film goes to great lengths to explain things that we already understood about the first two. If never-ending gore coupled with phony moralizing, seizure-inducing editing and terrible acting weren't already old after the last two…well, that's certainly the case now.

Some people have told me they just don't get the appeal of gory horror movies in general -- but I do. I get it -- it's escapism. They play into our morbid curiosities and twisted senses of humor (come on, you all have them), and they do so by showing us things that are so far out of the realm of possibility that they could only be considered pure fantasy, pure escape.

That cannot be said of either the original Saw or any of its successors. These are purely exercises in sadism, plain and simple. There is no objective but to show us filth and depravity, to show people torturing other people in impossibly inhumane ways. There is no point to any of it -- and worse, no sense of humor whatsoever. Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell enjoy the way Jigsaw tortures and kills his victims -- which might be OK, except they have no idea how to put it in any kind of context except, "Look at this disgusting way I can kill this chick -- isn't that cool?" There are good movies -- take SE7EN, for example -- that are just as twisted as Saw III, or even moreso. But they're good movies not just because they shock or sicken the senses, but because there's actually something going on inside the filmmakers' heads.

In SE7EN, John Doe takes himself, and his crime, so seriously that he's willing to die for it. In Saw III, Jigsaw once again fancies himself a morally infallible mastermind -- and the filmmakers seem to agree. They show us Jigsaw's methods, and when he carefully explains his reasoning, the film acts as though we're seeing the light. We're supposed to suddenly blame the victims -- not Jigsaw. After all, he's just playing a game!

It's like the filmmakers are on Jigsaw's side. Saw must be the favorite movie of every serial killer on the planet. Finally, someone understands the messages they've been trying to tell the world for years! Bravo.

Now, I'm sure the filmmakers don't intend this. I'm sure Bousman and Whannell are perfectly upstanding gentleman and are just playing around with their darkest impulses -- but they sure don't know how to get that across.

To be fair, the film's over-serious premise could still be darkly, sickly funny with a bit more thought -- but director Darren Lynn Bousman and writer Leigh Whannell don't have much of a sense of humor, if any at all.

Did you notice I hadn't even mentioned the plot? Maybe that's my point -- who cares about the plot? Does it even matter? Just to cover all my bases: Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dying. His protege, Amanda (Shawnee Smith) kidnaps a nurse (Bahar Soomekh) to keep him alive while Jeff (Angus Mcfadyen), a father hell-bent on seeking revenge on the drunk driver who killed his son, is put through a series of "tests" that -- surprise, surprise -- will culminate in a series of coincidental twists and turns in the end. Also, for some reason we get more of the back-story behind Jigsaw's mentoring of Amanda. Exciting stuff.

OK, that's it -- I've washed my hands of it now. Moving on…

Saw III is the worst kind of horror movie -- the kind that seems to contain the gore we expect, but which takes itself so seriously that the film falls on its face. I hate this word, but Saw III is flat-out pretentious -- something that should never be said of a horror movie.

There's no use getting worked up over the so-called "suspense" when the movie's only point is to come up with as many innovative ways to die as possible, and there's no use trying to care when Jigsaw is just going to preach to us about it when all is said and done. Saw III opens with a shot of Cary Elwes' severed foot -- which had me hoping that they might have brought him back for a glorified cameo or something. (Did we ever find out what happened to him? I forgot. Also I didn't care.) After all, the camp value of Elwes' unprecedentedly awful performance in the first Saw is enough to have me coming back for more -- that was comic genius.

Alas, it didn't turn out that way. Who knows why -- maybe that would have just been too much fun.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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