Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Darren Lynn Bousman
When it comes to horror films, the Saw set a unique standard that has been the sort of film that has been ground-breaking for all the wrong reasons. The first two films have helped changed the way horror films are created in the last couple years on a purely fiscal scale. Both films had tiny budgets by typical Hollywood standards yet managed to gross over $100 million worldwide apiece, making them extremely profitable on budgets that were less than $7 million combined. Horror films since have been made on the cheap, maximizing profits by having smaller budgets and relying more on marketing to generate enough of an opening weekend to turn a profit even before a lengthy stay at the box office or DVD revenues are generated.
The Saw franchise follows the same basic premise as any other horror franchise. Add in one bad guy, in this case the “Jigsaw” killer (Tobin Bell), and a pile of dead bodies to go with a revolving door of authority figures trying to crack the case and one has all the requisites to make a horror film. It also has some terrific cinematography and a good score, which are two musts in a genre known for quick cuts and mood elements derived from music. Coupled with an unusually strong performance from its main star, Tobin Bell, the film has all the elements to be a strong finale to what is allegedly the final film of the franchise.
Saw III follows Jigsaw, now on his death bed from cancer attended to by his assistant/apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith). As he’s dying he wants to live for one more game: to try and teach Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) the meaning of forgiveness. To that end he and Amanda have set up a series of tests, complimented by a talented doctor Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) kidnapped by the duo to ensure his survival throughout the contest. It’s a unique entry into the series and, rumors aside, feels like the end of the franchise. The key thing to consider is whether or not it can recapture the frenzied madness of the first.
It does not do any of the following; while the series is never known for being witty or creative in any sense, the original Saw had something to see beyond graphic horror sequences. Sadly that’s all Saw III brings to the table this time around. While it’s an effectively made thriller, it’s not a very entertaining one. It’s almost laughable at moments, if not for the effective use of blood and gore to keep the laughter at bay. It’s a slick-looking film, one of the strong points of the series as a whole, and the film’s scenery and settings are remarkably well done. One wouldn’t guess that this was an inexpensive film to make based on just how good it looks.
The key thing that lets the film down is its dialogue, or lack thereof. The characters aren’t given many words to use beyond multitudes of profanity, and it’s almost as if the script was initially just the hundred or so profanities the production staff wanted to use in the film and they used words around it to try and create something out of it. It makes many of the scenes, which have plenty of dramatic overtones, come in much more comical than scary. There’s a feeling while watching the film that the actors are forcing the profanity out much like a young adult uses curse words for dramatic effect; it’s not needed or warranted most of the time and doesn’t do anything more than insult the intelligence of anyone unfortunate to actually watch this film. It doesn’t hurt that the film has an absurd amount of plot twists and “shocking” dramatic moments; it’s almost as if the script was written by a pair of teenaged horror film fans with bad vocabularies, employing things that have worked in other films as solo items into one bad plot structure, cramming all of these en masse to a blunted effect.
And it takes a lot away from a solid performance by Bell. While it isn’t anything extraordinary of note, it’s a strong performance as Bell seizes on a lot of good moments scattered throughout the film and makes the most of them. Bell is much more of a professional in his acting than the cast for the most part and it shows; he brings a level of class to the proceedings, giving Jigsaw something of a personality in a room full of one dimensional characters.
Saw III may or may not be the end of the Saw franchise. While the film’s finale would make for a much more difficult entry into the genre, as a fourth film in the franchise would have to make some logic and plot leaps that would make this film seem reasonable by comparison, it’s a fitting end to the franchise.
|Popcorn Junkies’ Ratings for Saw III
||RATING(OUT OF 10)