FEARNET Movie ReviewSaw III


Reviewed by Scott Weinberg
Before we begin, let's just have a little recap on the history of the Saw series:

1/19/04 -- Saw debuts at the Sundance Film Festival.
10/29/04 -- Saw opens in North America.
2/15/05 -- Saw (1-disc theatrical) hits DVD.
10/18/05 -- Saw (2-disc "uncut") hits DVD.
10/28/05 -- Saw 2 opens in North America.
2/14/06 -- Saw 2 (1-disc theatrical) hits DVD.
10/24/06 -- Saw 2 (2-disc "unrated") hits DVD.
10/27/06 -- Saw 3 opens in North America.
1/23/07 -- Saw 3 (1-disc theatrical) hits DVD.
1/23/07 -- Saw 3 (1-disc "unrated") hits DVD.
10/23/07 -- Saw 3 (2-disc "director's cut") hits DVD.
10/26/07 -- Saw 4 opens in North America.

And I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy the whole damn trilogy. The first flick still works the best for me, but I've found a good deal of devilish delights in Part 2 and Part 3. Some people see the Saw series as little more than a bunch of ugly kill-scenes, but I think the flicks fill a very nice little niche: A gore-soaked soap opera that actually has a premise (and the continuity) the fans really like. And despite my "veteran" status as a horror freak, I don't mind admitting that the Saw movies kinda creep me out. And I don't mean just visually. So my original take on Saw went a lot like this:

What is it about the Saw series that has the gorehounds so gay, giddy, and gloriously gore-happy? Could it be the dark, stark and aggressively dangerous torture devices that the icky antagonists choose to employ? Is it that each Saw flick is so joyously grim, while most of the horror flicks that hit the multiplexes go "wimpy" for the PG-13 crowd? Or maybe it's just that we're all ready for another juicy new series like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Final Destination? Bottom line is that the horror freaks have spoken, and their message is clear: We dig the Saw flicks, and we have no problem turning these relatively low-budget shriek-fests into huge box office hits.

Count me among the happy masses, because I had a blood-soaked BALL with the original Saw, and found a good deal to enjoy in the first sequel. And now comes the dreaded Part 3, the chapter in which most horror series drop the ball, fumble it across the goal line, and basically poop all over the playing field. (Friday the 13th Part 3? Halloween 3? Chucky 3? Hellraiser 3? C'mon!)

Yep, that nastily ironic ol' Jigsaw is back, and he's not about to let something like a massive brain tumor stand in the way of some decidedly creative torture techniques. Jig's newest victims are a talented-yet-callous surgeon, whom our villain enlists to alleviate his near-death suffering, and a distracted papa who's still mourning the death of his beloved young son. The doc is required to keep Jigsaw alive long enough to see if Papa can make his way through a labyrinth filled with horrific metallic apparatus, while the bereaved father is forced to learn a few harsh lessons about forgiveness -- in a big hurry.

It's basically a simple framework on which to hang a healthy dosage of terrible tricks, dismal demises, and unexpected flurries of voluminous viscera -- and I think it's a fun time indeed. Those who've been loyal fans through the first two Saw-bits will find much to like in Chapter 3, while those who choose to turn their noses up at such hardcore horror will NOT find their minds changed by what goes down in Saw III. Surprisingly well-crafted and cleverly written for a movie that was rushed into production after its predecessor hit box office pay-dirt, Saw III will likely appeal to a very specific section of the horror-friendly crowd. And those folks already know who they are: Saw III opened to over $30 million in domestic box office ... so apparently I'm not the only one enjoying these nasty little nuggets.

So now you probably want to know what's new in this 2-disc "director's cut" of Saw III. Fair enough. Specs first: Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), with audio in DTS 6.1 or Dolby Digital 5.1. Audio-visually, the flick looks disturbingly great. Now, you probably want to know if you should toss your old Saw III DVD into your eBay pile ... but it all depends on how big a fan you really are. But this is important: All the extras are new and exclusive to this 2-disc release, so that's a plus. Regarding the "New Stuff" in the movie itself, I don't want to give too much away. This version runs eight minutes longer than the theatrical release, so you're also getting a few character bits and plot stuff ... in addition to (yes) a nice new batch of gore. (Well, the existing sequences are a bit nastier, is what I mean.)

On disc 1 we get three audio commentaries: one with director Darren Lynn Bousman and actor J Larose; one with actors Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell; and one with producer/screenwriter Leigh Whannell. Frankly I think it would have been better to combine all five participants onto one chat-track, but hey, three new commentaries is still pretty cool. For those who'd like to know precisely where the new footage is located, I'd recommend track one.

On disc 2 we get some ... fairly weak stuff. Jigsaw's Plan is a trivia game; Choose the Death lets you flip to your favorite moment of mayhem while director Darren Bousman offers some commentary; Looking Tortured is a brief featurette that offers some homemade FX tips; Filmmaker Favs is a collection of text screens in which cast and crew members share their favorite moments from the series. Also included is a Killer Inside music video and a 4-minute clip from Saw IV.

So do you need to make the upgrade? Again, it all depends on how big a Jigsaw fan you happen to be. The director's cut adds a bit more meat and a lot more gristle, but I don't know that it actually makes for a better film as a whole. The new commentaries are pretty solid, but the extra disc is mostly filler. As a big Saw fan (and a DVD completist), I'd call it a solid addition to my collection -- but not a requirement. But the DVD does come with a free ticket to Saw IV, so if you're planning to go see the new flick, this $15 purchase becomes a whole lot smarter.