Judge Eric Profancik has a phobia of extracted teeth on strings...and poorly conceived sequels.
Our review of Saw III: Director's Cut, published October 23rd, 2007, is also available.
"I want to play a game."
I've enjoyed the Saw films over the years but not quite enough to get me into the theaters to see them. When the first one came out, I heard all the buzz and it still took me a while to catch it on DVD. When I did, I fell in the love with the machinations, the traps, and the twists and turns. In my mind, the first Saw was a clever and intelligent horror film. Though, as it's said far too often, going back to the well leads us to sequels that are inferior to the original product. Saw II had some smart moments, but it wasn't as cohesive and claustrophobic as the first. Now we're in the official trilogy zone and Saw III doesn't quite live up to the original, but it does have one thing going for it…
Note: Minor spoilers ahead.
Facts of the Case
"Live or die, make your choice."
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, 24) is near death from cancer. He and his new protégé kidnap a doctor to simultaneously treat him and put her through one of his diabolical games. Concurrently, they have another victim going through his special game, which will force him to face his life's demons.
The first thing you need to know is that Saw III is a direct sequel to Saw II. That means you should probably see Saw II to understand what's happening. This movie picks up right where the last one left off and that leads to some surprises, seeing people and events tie back to the first two films. I'm going to do my best to avoid discussing this and Jigsaw's "new protégé" because half the fun of Saw III is seeing who or what will pop up.
The downfall to Saw III is that there's a whole lot of time devoted to the odd relationship between Jigsaw and his protégé. If it didn't consume so much time, it would have been more interesting to see how the two came together, and how the two actually orchestrated the events of the first two films together, unlike assuming that it was all Jigsaw. The relationship aspect of the movie becomes tedious and you want it to hurry up and get back to the traps and the mayhem. Yet seeing the past two films from a different angle is a lot of fun.
The second thing you need to know about Saw III—and the one thing it has going for it—is that it's a vicious movie. The first ten minutes had me antsy on my couch, screaming at the television. It's a nasty combination of traps and what the victims do to try to get out of them. Seeing victims with more resolve to escape than in previous films took it up to another level. The ultimate result of the victims' success or failure to escape from Jigsaw leads to a level of brutality not yet witnessed in the trilogy. Plain and simple, the traps and the escapes lead to a numbing amount of gore. I'm not one to shy away from things, but the opening minutes are very intense. As we get past these scenes, the movie does takes a break and shift gears. We get the aforementioned time delving into the Jigsaw/protégé relationship allowing us to catch our breath and soak in the horror. Our brains acclimate to what we see, bolstering us for what's next, and that respite is probably a bad thing as the subsequent traps and deaths don't affect us the same way. We're numbed and ready. Then again, what happens to our victim in his maze (this isn't the doctor, it's the "other victim") is clever and mean, but not quite as intense. Some of the maze traps are visually, wicked while others are a touch more visceral. Either way, they don't live up to the first two victims.
Unfortunately, I had a problem with my copy of Saw III: it wouldn't work in my player (Toshiba SD 4800 progressive scan with component output). On a whim I decided to try it on my older machine, another Toshiba (model SD 3109), and it worked.
The Saw movies have a definite look to them, and that look could make things tough on the transfers. Overall, the scenes are either very dark or a touch too bright with a green tinge to everything. Fortunately the 1.85:1 anamorphic print handles the demands well. It is hard to judge color accuracy in this light, but the look of the films is solid. It could use a bit more definition to the blacks, which needs to be crisper since most of the film is dark. Details, contrast, and sharpness are also very good, as to be expected from a new release. On the audio side, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is quite aggressive, utilizing all the channels well, putting you right into the middle of the action. No problems with the dialogue and no hint of hiss or distortion.
Bonus features on this release are a bit skimpy, except when you count the three different audio commentaries. I like a good commentary track, which is harder to find these days, but does a movie like Saw III really necessitate three commentary tracks? I think not! Fortunately, two out of the three are good listens. With three commentaries, I did not listen to them in their entirety, but at least thirty minutes of each. First up is a commentary with director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II), and executive producers Leigh Whannel, Peter Block, and Jason Constantine. I was surprised at how quickly this track went, sucking me right into the conversation. Bousman—who has a strong personality—dominates it but he also shares a lot of interesting information. Next up is a commentary with producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg. This one is the most boring of the lot as the two guys are pretty sedate. Lastly is a commentary with Darren Lynn Bousman, editor Kevin Greutert, and director of photography David A. Armstrong. Again, Bousman is the strong lead and it's another good listen. Since I didn't hear all five and a half hours of commentary, I'm not sure how much repetition there is across the three tracks. Next on the menu are two basic featurettes, "The Traps of Saw III" (9.5 minutes) and "The Props of Saw III" (almost 8 minutes). Neither goes into a great deal on its subject, and the props piece ignores Jigsaw's workshop (outside a generic religious comment)—probably the most prop-riddled set in the film. Next is "Darren's Diary" (9 minutes), a fun and informative behind-the-scenes look at Darren directing the movie. Last are some deleted scenes (about 5.5 minutes). There are actually only two scenes, with one taking the majority of the time. The long scene is mildly interesting at best.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What's with the teeth? Are you asking yourself that question? Why are there teeth in the publicity for the movie? Well, if you had watched all your bonus material, you would have learned that the teeth came from a scene that never was filmed. I guess we now should ask why the teeth are still around? They could have changed things for the DVD cover.
I've enjoyed the Saw series, and though each film has been a little less inventive and clever than its predecessor, Saw III is still far better than most of the quick and cheap horror flicks they put out these days. With some semblance of a plot, continuity, vicious death and murder, Saw III provides some diabolical entertainment. I give this DVD a rental recommendation for the casual fan and a purchase recommendation for the true fan.
Saw III is hereby found extremely guilty of murder.Case adjourned.
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• Three audio commentaries
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