The third time's not a charm

Saw Iii

on October 27, 2006 by Wyatt Ossa
The third film in a franchise is often not a charm. An inspired movie in a genre that almost demands sequels can easily berth a follow-up on strengths such as familiarity and curiosity (see: any scary movie, from Frankenstein to the Scream, ahem, trilogy). Saw I brought Tobin Bell back to reprise his role-of-a-lifetime as Jigsaw, the cancer-stricken mastermind of torture, who likes to play games. Jigsaw engineers elaborate works of terror that prey on the moral weakness of his victim. Bell's splendid villain and his devices trademark the series. The Saw sequel was no great continuation like Godfather II and didn't reinvent itself as Aliens did Alien, but it was a deserved effort. It was obvious from the moment the first Saw ended and with the money the sequel made that Lionsgate was going to go for the obligatory three-peat. It's just always that tricky third installment when the where-are-we-going-with-this? feeling starts to creep into the picture.

And so it comes as no surprise that Saw III deflates much of the hard-earned hype of the Saw franchise by the final credits. This time out, the filmmakers assume the audience has seen the first two and use the third to engage in back stories in the form of the dreaded flashback. Characters from the previous Saw movies are paraded out to further illuminate storylines that could have stayed forgotten. The tenants of the series limit Bell's Jigsaw to a hospice bed for the second movie in a row. Bell is superb, but the character seems to liger on and on and, like his inventions, the more we see, the less terrifying he becomes. Jigsaw is finally, and undeservedly, kind of pathetic.

The Saw franchise promises, as it implies, that limbs will be sawed off and the audience will get to see it happen; there will be complicated torture devices tailored for their victims and anyone can die horribly (except the cancer patient). However this relentless, delivering-the-goods pace cannot be sustained through a third feature, and the premise inevitably grows tired, giving way to the usual scary-movie shtick: spooky sounds of far-off children laughing, pigs getting slaughtered, people in pig masks, naked girl, useless detectives, corny flashbacks to explain everything and generic, Hollywood-y actors getting slaughtered too fast for anyone to keep up, much less care. By the third act, the delight of hearing Jigsaw utter, “Hello Travis, I want to play a little game,” has given way to eye-rolling tedium.

Rest assured, Jigsaw will be back again for the fourth time next Halloween weekend to scare up some cash, but some might say the jig is already up. Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh and Dina Meyer
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenwriter: Leigh Whannell
Producers: Greg Hoffman, Oren Koules and Mark Berg
Genre: Horror
Rating: R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language
Running time: 108 minutes
Release date: October 27, 2007

Tags: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh and Dina Meyer Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Screenwriter: Leigh Whannell Producers, Greg Hoffman, Oren Koules, Mark Berg, Genre, Horror, Lionsgate

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