Want to see the perfect example of Hollywood nurturing a cool, student short into a successful feature and then running it into the ground? Look no further than the Saw franchise. It has been three years since James Wan’s original horror film took audiences by storm and with each progressing year a sequel has been rushed into production damaging the credibility of the horror franchise.
With the inevitable and expected success of Saw III, illustrated by other studios’ hesitation to place a competing picture against the horror behemoth, it should come to no surprise that a fourth installment is already in the works. My question is how many times in such a short period can audiences take rehashed material? Yes, Saw III is gory and it does feature some innovative deaths, but it’s forced twist ending screams “Been there, done that.”
Well it seems Jigsaw, played by the demonically evil sounding Tobin Bell, has finally reached his death bed letting his sinister apprentice Amanda carry out business as usual. What was so refreshing about the Saw franchise in the first place was the fact that the “killer” never actually did the physical killing, rather it was the disgustingly creative torture devices and human nature which ended the lives of Jigsaw’s victims.
Well in Saw III it would seem that the concept has changed, because someone isn’t playing by Jigsaw’s rules rather fairly. In this third installment the devices, seemingly rigged to either destroy or save a human life, offer no chance of survival, but man are they cool. Exploding ribs, frozen corpses and rotting pig guts are just some of the delights awaiting audiences who dare to see what Jigsaw has lurking up his sleeve this time out.
While there are a few squeamish moments here and there, the majority of Saw III feels like a slight case of Deja Vu. People involved with domestic squabbles are getting surprised in uninspired ways by a kidnapper in a pig mask, Jigsaw is still complaining about his terminally ill bout of cancer (which never seems to end) and the film tries to twist and turn its “shock” finale more than a Rubik’s cube.
In fact the only intriguing plot thread has to do with a man, Jeff, who is riddled with guilt over the loss of his eight year old son through a tragic car accident. Well it seems Jigsaw has given Jeff a choice, use the opportunity granted by our ingenious antagonist to take justice as he sees fit on his son’s killer or realize, as Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
Too bad this one intriguing narrative becomes muddled and unimportant when the film’s climax hits. It seems that the series writers James Wan and Leigh Whannell have gone to such great lengths to continue the “Hah! I fooled you!” dynamic that ran through the first two installments that audiences will just feel cheated by the time the credits of Saw III roll.
Once again director Darren Lynn Bousman has maintained the look and feel of Wan’s original vision, continuing the frantic, jump cut editing, but this time with a greater focus on gratuitous gore. Where the first Saw had a relatively small budget, leaving some of the more twisted ideas left to the imagination, the latest incarnation of the series is by far Lions Gate’s crown jewel of 2006. With that in mind Bousman had the budget to show every sick and twisted thing he wanted too. Saw III doesn’t hold back at all, so bear that in mind, but even with the excess gore, the film never manages to achieve the heebie-jeebies the first picture garnered.
With the third installment out and another one in the works one has to wonder if the creative talents behind Saw have no shame. Granted the films have made each member of the team filthy rich, but at what cost? How many more films can they put out in rapid succession before they completely damage the reputation of the franchise? The answer is simple, when the films stop making money.
– Joe Russo, MoviePulse