At The Picture Show
If you Saw one, you Saw them all…whoa, deja vu
The 'Saw' series continues to sink--and stink--in the third installment
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
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