Letter Grade: D
The Movie I Wish I Never Saw
It promised suffering and suffering it delivered: 107 minutes of pure torture, the theatrical kind, with the unfortunate victims all on the wrong side of the screen.
As a Saw fan that thought the second film was better than the first, my expectations for this second sequel were obviously high. Though I liked both, Saw II director Darren Lynn Bousman seemed to do more with the premise in my opinion, so for some reason I actually believed that with him in charge again, this could somehow become one of the very few horror series that would be able to produce more than two solid films. Like a flawed character caught in one of Jigsaw's deadly contraptions, however, all my hopes were soon to be shattered.
This installment picks up where Saw II left us, it begins a new deadly game for a few more ungrateful humans, then shifts back and forth between this and the previous films interchangeably in order to further develop the relationship between Jigsaw and his devious apprentice Amanda, played familiarly by Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith. We see several sort of behind-the-scenes looks at how the pair set up the dismal situations for past victims, but no new information is really revealed, making for several extremely boring segments.
Dr. Lynn Denlon, played by Bahar Soomekh, is a doctor at a local hospital who is plagued with a disintegrating marriage and an addiction to pain killers. After being captured and taken to Jigsaw‘s lair, an explosive device is rigged to her neck with a collar, which is then synchronized with the heart monitor connected to the frail, dying body of the crazed mad man. Her mission is simple: keep the lunatic alive or else die with him, because as soon as Jigsaw's heart rate flatlines, the device bound to Dr. Denlon will detonate. This is Jigsaw's attempt at killing two birds with one stone, hoping to both ensure the longevity of his own life while also instilling into another the life-changing experience he believes truly "saves" a human being.
Meanwhile, a mourning father named Jeff is kidnapped only to awaken trapped inside a wooden box. We soon find out that Jeff is sulking over the loss of his young son, who was killed by a drunk driver in the not-too-distant past. After waking up and receiving the instructions to his game, communicated to him by Jigsaw's signature tape recorder, of course, Jeff breaks through the box, falls to the floor, and begins roaming the dark, sinister looking halls of what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. The longer his search continues, however, the less abandoned this facility becomes, as he stumbles across room after room of other individuals, each of whom are caught in a new diabolical device. Upon entering each room, Jeff finds another tape recorder, which explains to him why each person has been captured and delivered to him in such a helpless state: they are people all that were somehow involved in either the death of Jeff's son or the anguish the event has caused him.
The most noticeable problem with this formula is that it tries to do too much at once. Jeff is trying to learn forgiveness while Lynn is busy evaluating what it really means to save a life, at the same time Jigsaw is questioning Amanda's intentions in his operations and she is forming her own doubts over Jigsaw's appreciation of her. You end up never really knowing any of the characters and caring less about whether or not they drop dead at any moment.
The contraptions are probably what you'd expect from a Saw film: one woman is chained up naked in a freezing cold room while a stream of equally cold water is sprayed on her, one man is secured to the bottom of a large vat which is slowly filled with enough pig intestines to drown him, and one last involuntary participant is in danger of losing both his head and each of his limbs to a device that individually twists each of those body parts 360 degrees. A few other challenges are also on par with the series, as one player's game asks him to jerk himself free from a set of chains Jigsaw has attached all the way through several parts of his body, while another must retrieve a key from the bottom of a large bottle of flesh-eating acid using just her bare hands. There is no question then that Saw III has all the blood and the gore that come with the territory, but this seems to be the only part of the film Bousman, or anyone else for that matter, paid any attention to.
Everything else was a miserable failure. It never bothered me in the first two that virtually every line any character delivered in the first hour was a hint or clue for something later on, but this time it did, highlighted by some very unrealistic and awkward sounding conversations. The twists and turns expected from a Saw film were not the least bit interesting or surprising this time around, either, which really made the movie, no pun intended, suffer. Jeff's adventure seemed to follow a predictable pattern, Dr. Denlon's real identity was easy to guess, and when all was said and done, I couldn't help but feel that nothing had been accomplished.
Almost ironically, Saw III is hurt the most, however, by the very message the entire series has attempted to convey: if life really is as precious and valuable as Jigsaw claims it to be, you definitely shouldn't waste two hours of it on a movie this bad.