Saw III (2006)


Reviewed by Scott Weinberg
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.

The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is pretty darn excellent, with the goopy, rusty production design coming through in exceedingly fine fashion. High marks also for the audio presentation. Choose between a Dolby Digital 2.0 or DD 5.1 Surround mix, crank the sound up loud, and have a gory good time.

Gorehounds should have an absolute ball with this "unrated" cut of Saw 3, which runs about five minutes longer than the theatrical version of the film. You'll find a whole lot more in the pain department, particularly when it comes to the nastier dispatches. Mauled ankles, cracked ribs, hooked flesh and twisted bones all get a little extra screen time ... as do a few stray moments of dialogue and exposition. Plus (if I'm not mistaken) the final scene is just a little bit different from the theatrical cut, which is sure to cause much stressful hand-wringing on the part of the Saw-faithful.

As most of those fans know by now, the DVD release pattern for Saw flicks goes like this: Early in the year we get a single-disc edition, and come October we'll get a swankier 2-discer that's packed with more treats. (The only difference this time around is that Saw 3 comes in an unrated cut on its first DVD, whereas Saw and Saw 2 first made their digital debut in theatrical versions only.) But of course there's still a solid parcel of supplements, which are kicked off by three (!) separate audio commentaries. The first chat-track (which features the chattings of writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman, writer/producer Leigh Whannell, and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine) is by far the liveliest and most informative, although it's nice to know you'll have two more commentaries should you get really bored one night. (Track #2 features producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg. Track #3 is Bousman, editor Kevin Greutert, and cinematographer David Armstrong.)

Non-commentary goodies include a pair of featurettes on the traps (9 minutes) and the props (8 minutes) as well as a 9-minute snip of Mr. Bousman doing his thing on the Saw 3 set. You'll also find two (wisely-excised) deleted scenes, the Saw 3 theatrical teaser and trailer, and some previews for other Lionsgate horror stuff.

Been a big fan of this series since one very cold Sundance morning back in January of 2004, and I'm pretty impressed with the way in which the producers keep finding new and uniquely disturbing ways to up the ante. That being said, I think Chapter 3 has just a little too much fat on its bones (and adding an extra six minutes sure doesn't help matters). The longer a Saw movie is, the easier it is for a viewer to poke holes in the ultra-twisty plot contortions and get entirely used to how stunningly harsh the violence is. So if I'd give the original Saw a 4.5 (out of 5) and the first sequel a near-4, then Saw 3 falls somewhere right around 3.5 -- still definitely good enough for the horror fans to enjoy, but one can really sense some spinning of this series' wheels.