With his new apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith), the puppet-master behind the cruel, intricate games that have terrified a community and baffled police has once again eluded capture and vanished. While city detectives scramble to locate him, Doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) and Jeff (Angus Macfayden) are unaware that they are about to become the latest pawns on his vicious chessboard.
Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw III is a massive course correction from its predecessor and actually manages to boast a unique style that I ended up appreciating. Saw (which is still my favorite in the franchise) follows two men who are locked up in a disgusting and worn-down bathroom and have to rely on each other if they want to escape and make it out alive. Along the way, blood has to be shed and ultimately, it’s a brilliantly intense and thrilling psychological horror that will keep you guessing all the way to the very end. Saw II on the other hand was a colossal disappointment. It didn’t do a good job at expanding upon the world and felt more or less like a tired rehash of the original.
But Saw III, faults and all, still managed to impress me. Instead of being the third in a row to just follow a couple of people locked up in a small room and having them fight to survive, this entry takes a drastically different approach and one that, at the end of the day, ended up working. Following this new protagonist Lynn Denlon was entertaining and even somewhat suspenseful at times. John Kramer’s new apprentice Amanda places an explosive collar on Denlon and tells her that Kramer is dying and needs medical assistance immediately. However, Denlon doesn’t have all the best tools in order to save John but is told by Amanda that she must do whatever it takes to save John. If John dies, so does Lynn. Naturally, after being informed this, Lynn fights like no tomorrow to find a way to save John’s life, making for some genuinely intense and entertaining moments.
Another element to the film that I honestly ended up liking was that it flip-flops between Lynn and a man named Jeff, who’s young boy was killed in a car crash and those that were responsible got away with barely any jail time. He is told that he has to try to forgive the man that killed his son if he wants to survive and make it out. It touches on some truly thought-provoking themes, even if Jeff’s storyline is essentially just centered around the iconic gory traps of the series.
But Saw III has its problems, unfortunately. One of the biggest issues I have with the movie is, sadly, the character of Amanda. She is almost unbearably annoying and frustrating to watch here, and a large portion of her story just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Her joining sides with John Kramer is one of the most confusing and nonsensical plot twists in any horror movie, and the things that they do with her character here are a little bit ridiculous.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am currently watching every Saw film in order this week. Having seen the first three, it pains me to say that every one of them thus far has had absolutely atrocious editing. It’s headache-inducing and makes you feel sick. It could be intentional because the overall nature of this franchise is aimed to gross you out and make you feel uncomfortable, but sloppy editing doesn’t make me feel sick in the way the filmmakers had intended. It’s just lazy. One of the greatest things about 2017’s Jigsaw was that it actually felt cinematic and not homemade. It had proper editing and cinematography that was genuinely creepy.
Also, the color palette on display here is extremely ugly to look at. The movie is chalked full of tons of green, brown, and blue colors and even has oversaturated light effects at times. As I mentioned earlier with the editing, this could have all been done intentionally to make the viewer feel sick, but really, it just comes across as bad and lazy.
But thankfully, Saw III actually has more things to enjoy than things to hate. It still suffers from a story that isn’t nearly as captivating as the first, its trap sequences feel like a departure from the overall main plotline, and certain characters can get annoying, but it’s nevertheless a surprisingly intense and thought-provoking horror film that manages to be highly entertaining and fun.
Saw III is a fresh third entry in the long-running franchise thanks to its surprisingly intense story, fun trap sequences, and its portrayal of grief and loss.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release Date: October 27, 2006
Running Time: 108 minutes