STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $18.89
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
• Commentary by Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith
• Commentary by executive producer / writer Leigh Whannell
• Commentary by director Darren Lynn Bousman and actor J Larose
Jigsaw’s Plan trivia game
Choose the Death
• Music video: Killer Inside – Messed Up World
Looking Tortured: Make Up F/X How-To
Filmmaker Faves
• Sneak Peek at Saw IV

The Pitch

Suffering? You haven’t seen anything yet. Strangely enough, that’s also Britney Spears’ life motto…

It was there…in the darkness of his dressing room…right before the first show in the New Kids Reunion Tour…that Donnie realized what level his career had really sunk to.

The Humans

Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFayden, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer.

The Nutshell

Genius (i.e. nutbag) serial killer Jigsaw (Bell) is at death’s door and together with his apprentice, Amanda (Smith), has prepared one last deadly game, this time for a man, Jeff (MacFayden) who’s dealing with grief and anger over his son’s death due to a drunk driver. They need the help of a doctor, Lynn Denlon (Soomekh) to keep Jigsaw, who’s got one foot and a knee in the grave due to cancer, alive long enough to see the game threw to its grisly end. In true Saw fashion, there is a twist and plenty of elaborately-staged carnage, and some loose threads from the previous films are also tied up as Jigsaw looks to close the chapter on his life and pass along his work to Amanda, who has some issues of her own to deal with.

Gotta love those hardcore Hellraiser fans…

The Lowdown

It’s October, so it must be time for another Saw double-dip and a coverage of said dip by yours truly. Check out my previous thoughts in years past on the original (here) and the sequel (here). I’ve given both Saw movies positive reviews, albeit with several reservations. For Saw III, it’s pretty much more of the same, although I think this outing is a bit more of a return to the original rather than a building on the sequel as the lesson that Jigsaw is trying to teach is a bit more personal than the relatively copious collateral damage he racked up in Saw II. With Amanda now running things while essentially as Jigsaw is incapacitated, the early traps take a turn more toward the vicious as Amanda hasn’t quite gotten the point of Jigsaw’s intent on making the traps escapable if one is willing to make a fateful – and thus life altering – choice. Amanda just likes offing people in Jigsaw’s trademark way and isn’t interested in teaching lessons, but rather amassing a body count.

Okay, admittedly my weekend with Dina in Slovakia got a little freaky…

This time there are essentially two stories going on. One involves the main subject, Jeff, who awakens to find that he needs to run a gauntlet of traps involving people who were instrumental in the drunk driver responsible for his son’s death getting off with pretty much a slap on the wrist. He can either help them or leave them to their fate, and thus possibly find redemption for his soul which has been blackened by hate. The other is of Dr. Lynn Denlon, a woman who’s been unfaithful to her husband and found herself generally blasé about life in general. Not only does Jigsaw need her to help him stay alive long enough to see Jeff’s game through to the end, but also to teach her her own lesson via a dog collar full of double aught shells that’ll turn her head into a crater if she doesn’t comply.

Just in time for Christmas: the new Gucci-Cobain necklace. $249.99 at Macy’s.

Meanwhile, Jigsaw and Amanda’s relationship is further illuminated, including some flashbacks to both the original Saw and Saw II and how their mentor/protégé relationship took shape after Amanda survived her own initial game of death. There’s some stuff also going on between those two as we see that Amanda isn’t exactly handling the imminent demise of her father figure very well and hasn’t been taking on his teachings quite as he had hoped. They also wrap up some dangling story threads like what happened to Adam (writer / actor Leigh Whannell), the unfortunate slob left in the dungeon at the end of the first movie, and Det. Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), the unfortunate slob left in the dungeon at the end of the second film.

Am I the only one who thinks Romero was reaching just a bit with Barbecue of the Dead?

I’d say there’s very little middle ground on the Saw franchise. You can either check your brain at the door and enjoy the carnage or you can’t get with it on any level. I’ve been married for quite some time, so checking my brain is like second nature, and I kind of enjoy returning to the franchise once a year. I can see some of the failings of the series (especially in the first movie), but I do think that the filmmakers are crafting a fairly interesting mythology, although it’s essentially cribbed straight from Se7en. All three movies together aren’t anywhere near the same level as that film by itself, but I do enjoy the slicings, dismantlings, crushings, immolations and general snuffings on a superficial level. I do think that the films have managed to sustain “the twist” rather well, even though you know that it’s coming. I claimed that in Saw II I knew it was coming but didn’t guess it and admittedly, Saw III got me also. The filmmakers do take the time to try to tie the movies together rather than just cranking out a bunch of hackneyed slasher films with little to no relationship to one another.

An apt portrayal of the effect of Sean Kingston’s "Beautiful Girl" song I’d say.

The only thing that really doesn’t work in this movie is the ending where there’s a fateful death that couldn’t have been planned, even though Jigsaw foresaw it. If the death had gone a certain way (i.e. been more direct or more sudden), we wouldn’t have picked up on vital info to get clued in on Jigsaw’s master plan. This is also the director’s cut of the film. I saw the theatrical version last year, and damned if I could tell you what the extra footage was. Perhaps a smattering of extra carnage and gore, but the film seemed to run about as I remembered it. Which also means that the blonde woman that was briefly shown in a Jigsaw flashback – before he became Mr. Kevin Spacey-wannabe – is still relatively unexplained. With all of Jigsaw’s scenes in the upcoming Saw IV almost certain to be flashbacks, wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up again and we get some more answers on the subject of who she is/was. Nevertheless, even as the franchise rolls along for round IV with pretty much everybody dead from the first three movies – including Jigsaw – I still think that III, although far from perfect, was a stupid piece of bloody fun.

At first,, Shawnee wasn’t too sure about her photographer’s whole "Brigitte Bardot crackwhore" headshot motif, but the finished product speaks for itself…

The Package

First of all, the film looks damn good in 1.78 widescreen. The reds are plenty red and III maintains the washed out, dreary look that’s been inherent in the series to date. There’s also some great sound editing, particularly during Jigsaw’s operation and also the poor slob who’s stuck in the rack near the end of the movie. Bones hardly ever sounded better when they were snapping like twigs. The sound is available in both DTS Digital Surround ES and Dolby Digital Surround EX. This set is also loaded with features o’plenty to keep us sick puppies entertained during multiple viewings. First of all, there are three commentaries: one by Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith, one by executive producer / writer Leigh Whannell, and one by director Darren Lynn Bousman and actor J Larose (the unfortunate soul who took piercings to the extreme in the openeing minutes of the film). There’s also the Jigsaw’s Plan trivia game which seems to go on forever. I got at least 15 questions in before saying the hell with it.

Tobin’s reaction when the producers told him they still had ideas for another five of these movies…

Choose the Death allows you to go behind the scenes with storyboards and commentary on 10 different death scenes spanning the three films so far. There’s a music video: Killer Inside – Messed Up World that I conveniently skipped (if it ain’t 70s and it ain’t R&B, I don’t bother). Looking Tortured: is a pretty interesting 14-minute makeup tutorial on how to achieve the bloody looks of characters from the three movies using ordinary items, and just in time for Halloween! Filmmaker Faves is an odious feature where you get to read one page quickies about what were the cast and crew’s favorite lines, characters and traps from the movies. Note to DVD packagers: if I want to read this shit, I’ll go to Wikipedia. I want talking head pieces with footage. DVD is a visual medium. Finally, there’s a three-minute sneak peek at Saw IV where two guys wake up in a mausoleum, one with his eyes wired shut and the other with his mouth wired shut and both dog-collared to some kind of torture machine in the middle of the room. Overall a pretty decent offering.

Although gun kata was good for taking out multiple adversaries, DuPont much preferred powersaw kata for that up close and personal touch.

7.7 out of 10