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Jigsaw has disappeared. With his new apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith), the puppet-master behind the cruel, intricate games that have terrified a community and baffled police has once again eluded capture and vanished. While city detectives scramble to locate him, Doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) and Jeff Reinhart (Angus Macfadyen) are unaware that they are about to become the latest pawns on his vicious chessboard.
For more about Saw III and the Saw III Blu-ray release, see Saw III Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 18, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Leigh Whannell, James Wan
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Donnie Wahlberg, Dina Meyer
» See full cast & crew
Saw III Blu-ray Review
The weakest Saw yet is the best Blu-ray of the bunch (so far).
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 18, 2008
Warning: this review contains spoilers relating to earlier films in the Saw franchise.
Vengeance doesn't solve anything. It only makes the pain greater.
The law of diminishing returns generally holds true in horror movie franchises. Most franchises begin promisingly enough, and the classics of the horror genre inneviteably spawn numerous sequels, most of which fail. This was especially true in the 1980s as sequel after sequel of the Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and numerous minor franchises played almost nonstop at theaters. Seemingly every week a new one was released, generally to an apathetic audience and negative reviews. Hardcore horror took a break in the 1990s, but the new millennium brought forth a new wave of horror that relied mostly on copious amounts of gore to frighten audiences. To date, the Saw series of films represents the most prolific of the new wave of horror franchises. Like the slasher films of the 1980s, the series is starting to show signs of wear as the movies get progressively less interesting. Saw III, unlike its predecessors, relies more on gore than story to move the plot along, and this transformation does not come unexpectedly. The movie does an admirable job of explaining away this new angle, but after being mostly impressed with the first two films, Saw III left a bad taste in my mouth as I couldn't help but think that it just wasn't a necessary entry into the franchise. However, the Saw series sells, and that's the bottom line. More and more films will be made until audiences decide that enough is enough. With Saw IV now on Blu-ray and a fifth film due in October, the franchise appears far from dead.
Saw III picks up right where Saw II left off. As the character left for dead in the second film attempts to escape his imprisonment, audiences are greeted with a gruesome act of self inflicted violence sure to churn the stomachs of even the most dedicated of horror fans. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, reprising his role from the previous films), ridden with cancer and on his deathbed, hatches one final scheme with his apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith, also reprising her role) who looks more mature and stoic this go- round. She kidnaps a doctor named Lynn (Bahar Soomekh, Mission: Impossible III) as part of an elaborate scheme set up by Jigsaw that involves himself, Lynn's estranged husband Jeff (Angus Macfadyen, Equilibrium), their dead son, their kidnapped daughter, and herself. While Lynn struggles with her captivity and is forced to operate on the dying Jigsaw, Jeff must work his way through a maze where he confronts individuals who played a part in both his son's death and the legal aftermath until he comes face to face with the man who killed his son, imprisoned in the most elaborate and vile device seen yet in the series. Will Jeff's thirst for blood and revenge get the better of him, ultimately leading him down a road even more destructive than he bargained for, or will he come to his senses and pass Jigsaw's most intricate test yet?
Hardcore Saw fans are most likely going to love this movie. As a casual observer, I found it to be, by far, the weakest entry in the series to date. Perhaps this is more of a case of Saw fatigue having screened the first three films in a two day period, but I found this one to be overly long, lacking in abundant originality, and mostly uninspiring. As the third film in the series, it's no surprise that we see a lot of recurring themes, dialogue, and catch phrases from the first two films repeated here. Saw III does manage to tie up loose ends and answer lingering questions from the first movie of the series, but I felt that such in-depth detailing of the intricacies behind the set-up of the original Saw ruined its magic a bit. While nice to know, the simple shock of the situation presented to Dr. Gordon and Adam in the first film, knowing no more than they do, is what made that film so effective. Of course we learn the secret at the end of the movie, but did we really need to see the entire set-up? Perhaps hardcore fans of the series did, but not I.
While Saw III is a decent gore fest of a movie, I felt that it tried a little too hard to be something that it's not. The movie presents a foreboding atmosphere, but at times the movie seemingly tried a bit too hard in this department, resulting in sometimes clichéd and laughable moments. The movie also attempts to create a few touching and emotional moments, mostly centered around the impending death of Jigsaw, but it's awfully hard to care for a man such as he. Saw III, as a whole, is a mostly complete departure from the first two films of the series in that this one relies on blood and gore rather than tension and fear to move the story from point A to point B. It explains this shift in direction away with a subplot involving Jigsaw and Amanda, and while it made sense, it felt like a bit of a cop out to me. Hopefully the fourth film will make it worth the effort and reward fans with a film that hearkens back to the spirit of the first two films in the series.
Saw III Blu-ray, Video Quality
While Saw III can lay claim to being the best looking of the series yet on Blu-ray, that's not really much to brag about. As mentioned in my previous reviews for this series, the movies are shot in generally dark, dank locales with a muted color palette and the end result is a movie that will never look beautiful on Blu-ray or any other format. Nevertheless, the look of the series is part of its appeal and a factor in why these films generally work, so there is no need to alter the style. Still, this 1.78:1, 1080p image is certainly not going to be one you'll use to showcase your high definition system. The image on the whole is crisper and sharper with a fairly high level of detail and clarity. Black levels fare better here than in the other films, but they still present the same problems found in the previous films, namely overly bright dark scenes that tend to make the image look unnatural. There is a fine line between allowing the image to be completely dark and brightening it to the point of looking bad, and the Saw Blu-ray discs haven't found that line yet, as they are all three on the wrong side of it. This one still looks marginally better than the first two films and hopefully Saw IV will fare better. I have a feeling it will.
Saw III Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unlike the video quality, Saw III audio tracks are noticeably superior to those found on the Blu-ray editions of the first two films. Unfortunately, we still do not get a lossless audio track here (I'm excited that we will finally have a DTS-HD MA lossless track for the Saw IV disc) but the DTS-ES 6.1 track included on this disc represents one of the best lossy tracks you'll hear on Blu- ray. A Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is also included. I chose to listen to the DTS track and I was very impressed. "Loud" and "dynamic" are two words that come to mind as I remember this listening experience. There is almost nonstop movement of sound from one speaker to the next and the flow is natural with no distortion or out of place sound. The track contains tense, hard hitting musical cues and uses bass effectively to add to the tension and horror on screen. Every bit of it is clear and robust. Dialogue also sounds natural and pleasant. An intense soundtrack is essential to fine tuning any modern horror movie, and in this area, Saw III is an unquestionable success.
Saw III Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
It seems like horror movies, on average, get more extras than most other genres, and Saw III is no exception. Three full length audio commentary tracks highlight this group of extras. First up is a track with director Darren Lynn Bousman, writer/executive producer Leigh Whannell, executive producer Peter Block, and executive producer Jason Constantine. These participants are energetic, love the film, and deliver some pretty good insights into this film (including a battle over the rating as well as the nuances, alterations, and plausibility of the traps to make them as effective as possible and somewhat based in reality) and the series as a whole. The second track features producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg. This track is pretty tedious with long pauses, discussions of the action on the screen, some fluff props to the cast ("they are all great to work with"), and minor technical details and praises such as "this scene was lit by a flashlight" and "he did everything he could to create the look of being in a freezing meat locker," and "this scene would be nothing without this actress." The final track includes director Darren Lynn Bousman, editor Kevin Greutert, and director of photography David A. Armstrong. By the time this track rolls around, listening becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. We get some rehashed material we've already heard, but this is still more lively than the second track. We get more discussion about the MPAA and a discussion about their reaction to the initial cut of the film. This track features the most discussion about the gore, so those interested in that aspect of the movie might want to listen to this track first. It makes for pretty interesting listening, but nevertheless, three commentary tracks seems a bit overkill, especially listening to them in short order.
Next up are a plethora of video features. The Traps of 'Saw III' (1080i, 9:21) is an all too brief look at the design of the traps and their progression from the first two films to this one. The Props of 'Saw III' (1080i, 7:54) features a discussion about the movie being for the fans and what it takes to make a movie gore hounds will love. We see some behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the famous puppet, the brain surgery scene, and the pig slaughter sequence. The Writing of 'Saw III' (1080i, 6:43) reinforces the idea of taking the series in a different direction and writing a story for the fans. Amanda: The Evolution of a Killer (1080i, 5:12) is an interview with Shawnee Smith. She discusses how she accepted the role in the film and her thoughts about the character she plays in the series. Darren's Diary (1080i, 9:20) is a look at director Darren Lynn Bousman preparing to film scenes in the movie. Wrapping up the extras are two deleted scenes (480p, 5:29), the film's theatrical and teaser trailers (both presented in 480p), and the ever present Lionsgate montage.
Saw III Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Saw III proved to be the weakest link amongst the first three films. It resorted to the blood and guts approach rather than staying true to the successful formula of the first two films, a formula combining elements of horror and suspense with minimal on screen carnage to stimulate viewers. Here, the goal seems to be to gross out the viewer as much as possible, displaying diced pigs, blown up heads, and twisted limbs in gruesome detail. You may never want to consume pork products again after watching this movie. It's not the goriest movie I've ever seen, but it's enough to make the weaker viewers sick to their stomachs. I hope Saw IV manages to regain the magic of the first two films. If not, this franchise is doomed to imminent death. Technically, this disc is the best of the Saw series on Blu-ray so far. The picture is a slight improvement over parts I and II and the audio quality is nearly second to none for a lossy encode. Plenty of extras make this a disc fans will enjoy. Like the other two films, I can recommend Saw III as a purchase to hardcore horror, gore, and dedicated Saw fans only.
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