Now it’s just painful.
A horror movie with brains… splashing all over your feet as they fall out of someone’s skull.
Okay, now it’s officially gratuitous. SAW III begins the ruination of the SAW franchise. Not only is it needlessly gory, original SAW writers Leigh Whannell and James Wan try to connect the existing SAW movies in a Grande Trilogy that almost works, but only succeeds in pulling back the curtain on the skull-splitting intrigue that drove the original SAW.
Shawnee Smith (who keeps getting hotter with each SAW) reprises her role as Amanda, and it is revealed that her role in all three SAWs was more integral than ever. Backstory flies all over the place like intestines at a werewolf party; seems that after Amanda escaped the infamous head-bear-trap in SAW, she was so thankful to Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) for alerting her to the error of her junkie ways, she became his bottom bitch and has been aiding him with gags ever since – including the very first one with Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes in SAW.
TMI, dudes. Dial the backstory down to OCEAN’S TWELVE.
SAW III picks up exactly where SAW II left off – Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Matthews chained to a pipe, in the movie’s most powerful scene, which harkens back to the hook that separated SAW from its knife-kill ilk – self-mutilation for the sake of escape.
Unfortunately, as with II, after the stomach-churning opening, it’s downhill on a tricycle with no brakes, Jiggie Doll eck-eck-ecking his little spiral-red cheeks.
The connecting tissue in SAW III involves two stories. Nurse Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) must keep Jigsaw alive through a graphic head operation, with the threat of a bullet necklace going off in her face if she lets him die. And Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) wanders through a house of traps where people involved in his son’s accidental death are in mid-torture; Jigsaw gives him the option to let them live or die – but forgiving them takes him a step closer to his son’s killer…
That microcassette gag has become tiresome beyond redemption. At every trap, Jeff finds that infamous cassette that explains his conundrum, but the traps and situations are now so complex, it wears on our senses. The question becomes not how to escape the trap, but how ingeniously the trap was set up: people have to be stalked, studied, captured, inserted into their marvelously deadly traps, which have to be constructed from scratch, from no existing designs, meticulously working on timers, with all their escape points nullified so that there IS no escape, psychologically or physically… the logistics are mind-boggling.
And that’s when the nonsense of it all bleeds through. Even if Amanda was the most ambitious serial killer in the world, she still wouldn’t have time to set all this up, avoid the authorities, pay the electric bill and still have time to apply makeup and lip gloss and keep her hairstyle so street-cred skanky.
And when we see Jigsaw convulsing and vomiting in pain on his makeshift hospital bed, we recall our own human frailties. Think about those stomach aches that throw your whole day into disarray: a virus? gas? kidney stone? botulism? renal failure? A thousand sicknesses could double you over and make you a wailing child again, and you can’t focus on anything except stopping the mind-curdling pain; you can’t even plan ahead to lunch – yet Jigsaw, whose pain levels are immeasurable (as he reminds us constantly), can still summon the will to concoct ridiculously innovative methods of killing other people “to teach them a lesson.” Insanity or genius? It just doesn’t gel with what we know of human pain; in the midst of pain, it is impossible to think of inflicting it on others – we want to selfishly stop our own pain first.
Admittedly, Jigsaw is a psychopath. But most psychopaths we encounter in knife-kill flicks are in prime health. Jigsaw, in the throes of convulsions, would still feel physical trauma as a human. Would that he used his ingenuity to outfit his dank little dungeon with methods to curb his pain, rather than spread pain outwards through Amanda.
His first gags in SAW were in the early stages of his disease, so his psychosis could be accepted as that of a dying man erroneously mistaking killing others as grasping for a last spark of vitality. But here, every semblance of reason and motivation has been lost due to his near death condition.
A powerful, surprising ending does nothing to curb our pain, and we know that even though SAW III ties it up with grand deaths all over the place, the franchise will limp on, fueled by contrivance.
In the words of Monty Python, “Oh, you’re no fun anymore!”