10 Years: “Saw III”

Sometimes the third time only reveals what we already knew. Some films can only achieve one level of enjoyable. No amount of reworking a film’s story is ever going to change that. On the plus side, it’s what the fans want. For better or worse, those who turned out and made the film’s the successes they are, got exactly what they asked for, even if it’s beneath all levels considered good.

The Lionsgate Films film “Saw III”, may bring a bit more human drama, but ups the unnecessary gore the series would later become known for.

This horror film stars Tobin Bell (“The Flash”, “Days of Our Lives”), Shawnee Smith (“Savannah Sunrise”, “Anger Management”), Angus Mafadyen (upcoming “The Lost City of Z”, “Turn: Washington’s Spies”), Bahar Soomekh (“Perception”, “Parenthood (2010 TV series)”), Dina Meyer (upcoming “Flight 192”, “The Crooked Man”), Costas Mandylor (“The Horde”, “Once Upon a Time”), Mpho Koaho (upcoming episodes “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, “Dark Matter”), Barry Flatman (“Private Eyes”, “Hell on Wheels”), Debra Lynne McCabe (“A Christmas Horror Story”, “Bitten”), Niamh Wilson (“Inhuman Condition”, “Degrassi: The Next Generation”), Lyriq Bent (“Shoot the Messenger”, “The Book of Negroes”), and Alan Van Sprang (“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”, “Beauty and the Beast”).

The film was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (upcoming “Abattoir”, “Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival”) and written by Leigh Whannel (“Insidious: Chapter 3”, “Cooties”).

The film originally opened on Oct. 27, 2006.

Hello! and welcome back to another “Saw” film celebrating its 10th anniversary. It gets easier when you remember that one of these films was released for seven straight years. Is it something you’re bound to get overjoyed about? Probably not, but it’s still exciting nonetheless. It’s been 10 years since this third, and last decent film in this franchise, was released. Afterward, and a bit with this one, all this franchise did was usher in a new horror sub-genre wonderfully known as “torture porn”. If that got you really excited, then woohoo for you! If not, then you’re probably like me. Someone who just wanted to see what idiotic things various writers could come up with, all while hoping that somehow, someway, an intelligent story could work its way through. Boy was I wrong, and not just once, but for four consecutive years.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. I’ve seen it, probably in theaters. I own it, which is how I’ve been able to do this film and the previous two films. And yet, contrary to what anyone would’ve told me, I decided to believe otherwise.

Which brings us here. Rediscovering what I already knew.
It doesn’t have much going for it. It’s got an easy enough story to follow, but surprisingly no real reason to keep watching.

The original film was at least a mystery. A genuine mystery, with a ticking time bomb of a plot going, and an idea that anything could happen. It was more a horror thriller than just a horror film. The second film still had a bit of a thriller vibe to it. More so than this one. It was focused, and contained. And, more so, it was a lot less gruesome in its violence than this one, or the other film’s that came out over the subsequent four years.

This one seemed to be more about the traps, and Macfadyen’s journey to get to and through them. They weren’t happening to him, so there’s a big difference there, too.

What seemed a bit different as well, you guessed it! the gruesome nature of these traps. They just seemed really, really gory. To the point of unnecessary. I can’t say with certainty how much I was affected, but I could tell I was. I seemed to be a bit more squeamish than usual. Normally I can get through things like this, but this time, it seemed like it was all too much. Now, maybe that’s because it was. This version was, and always has been, the “Director’s Cut” (whatever the fuck that means here). So it’s a safe bet there was more shown. Regardless, I feel that this film showed more of that “torture porn” element than I’d previously thought. In some ways I’m saddened by this, but in others, I’m just over it. These films are what they are. That’s never going to change.

What probably shouldn’t have changed was the approach to the character’s personal stories. I honestly can’t recall if there were even attempts a humanizing the characters in the later films, but at least this one made a pretty big effort. Of the first three films, this one had the deepest overall storylines for its characters. That being said, while they may have moved you a tiny bit, they truly weren’t that deep. But, again, at least Whannel tried.

I think I’d just plain forgotten what it was that had MacFadyen’s so sad and angry. I also don’t think I recalled too well anything about Soomekh’s character. Hell, I didn’t even remember the traps, or was putting them in the next film for some reason. Man, this film really wasn’t that memorable after all. Well, except for what happened to Meyer. I got that mostly right.

Anyway. Regardless of what I remembered, this film did feature some of the deepest exploration of humanity in these films. It didn’t take much to pick up on any of it. It’s what drove Macfadyen, and made Smith become more and more unstable than she already was. While it may not have had the deepest of impacts, it was effective enough. Smith’s Amanda was actually displayed more than just a junkie and apprentice to Jigsaw. While I could enjoy Smith’s character already, this brought me in, in a way that not many horror films can achieve at all. Mafadyen was the same way. So pained by the loss of his son. Resentful. Vengeful. But, it gave the film a chance to explore a major theme, even if it was in a gruesome fashion. This avenue, while a bit silly, gave you a solid way into Macfadyen’s character, and for that, I’m a bit thankful. If it weren’t for this, I may have just thought he were some kind of asshole.

And then there was Soomekh. Well, tragically, no matter how much her character showed off how determined she was to survive, with many different displays of badassery, she was merely a prop. Sure her character had a central purpose, which was to keep Bell’s John (Jigsaw) alive, or die, but there was one more purpose that was even more important than that. She was the twist. A single and simple plot element, but one that basically made her character, not really a character. When I think back on it, she didn’t have much explained or showed to make her as sympathetic as Macfadyen. Yes there were some surprisingly tender moments between Soomekh and Bell, but they were largely forgettable. We weren’t constantly reminded of them like with Macfadyen or Smith. In so many ways, especially with this film, it’s a shame.

The third outing for any film series is probably fraught with problems. How to keep fans interested and surprise them with things they haven’t seen before? It’s a complicated dance, and few films can truly manage to get it right. Usually, as close as to it as possible is okay. However, sometimes the same old tricks aren’t the answer. Just because fans want something specific, doesn’t mean they’re right. Going in a different direction can be for the better.

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