[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 27 – [Happy 15th Birthday!] Saw III (2006)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
108 mins. Rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language.

Saw III felt like an event in horror back in 2006. It was the end of a trilogy, following two very popular installments. We weren’t sure if the franchise would continue, if it could continue, and if so, in what form? So many questions, and it was a packed theatrical experience in my hometown theater. Now, 15 years on, Saw III ended up not being the last installment (and even the next last installment, Saw: The Final Chapter, ended up not being the last installment either, in typical horror franchise fashion), so how does this third entry in the 9-film series fare amid the larger framework, and is it any good?

It’s been six months since Eric Matthews disappeared, and with each new killing, Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers, Johnny Mnemonic) gets more and more desperate for answers. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, Mississippi Burning, The Firm) and Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith, The Blob, Believe) haven’t been seen in that time, but they’ve been busy setting their new game in motion, involving a vengeful father who must save the very people he blames for the death of his son and a surgeon forced to keep Jigsaw alive until the game is complete.

Saw III still feels like a final chapter in many ways. It sort of completes a certain story of the Saw franchise while sowing the seeds for the next 4 installments. I love when a horror series can build upon its established mythology as it furthers the narrative, and Saw III is perhaps the best example of this series excelling at both. It looks back at how Amanda has been integral in Jigsaw’s story as she sets up events from the first two films, and it dives into the deep mentor/protege relationship that the two have cultivated as Jigsaw tries to understand if she is capable of taking on his mantle after his death.

As far as the new game goes, I found this one quite interesting. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how this game would matter in the grand scheme, and it plays out in a number of surprising ways. This is something some of the later films would struggle with, but I found the twists and turns to be rather interesting in this film. The traps are interesting as well, a good combination of elaborate and disgusting. The Rack is one of the best traps of the entire series.

The cinematography and editing in the film are very similar to previous installments, but Bousman continues to push the visual flair of the series, crafting some interesting transitional shots that keep the action moving even when the narrative pauses to jump into the past.

Charlie Clouser’s score here is the best of the series thus far, as he takes popular theme’s like Hello Zepp and elevates them in new and interesting ways. I’ve always been a fan of the score in this franchise, and Clouser’s work in this film is another way. Between Clouser’s music, the cinematography, and editing, everything feels like a Saw film, and it won’t sway you if you didn’t like them in the first two films.

Saw III isn’t here to bring in new fans, and it doesn’t have to. If you’ve enjoyed the franchise thus far, Saw III should continue the strong streak of this 2000s horror juggernaut. If you weren’t a fan of Saw or its follow-up, this just may not be the franchise for you, but I adored this sequel and nearly everything about it. It’s one flaw is that may spend more time in the past than it does in the present, but it’s all good stuff nonetheless.

-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Wan’s Saw, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw II, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival, click here.
  • For my review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival, click here.
  • For my review of the anthology film Tales of Halloween, click here.

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