Just pretend the first Saw never happened and the rest of this gets much, much easier to process. Jigsaw upped his game to Batman-levels of mind games, anticipation, and resources, as his efforts went city wide. We also learn he has an apprentice in the form of Amanda Young, the first survivor of his traps, who is being groomed to take over when he succumbs to his rapidly growing cancer. His latest target, Detective Eric Matthews, failed his test about as hard as possible and is now trapped in the iconic bathroom to slowly die.
After Saw II, filmmakers Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan, and Leigh Whannell were ready to wash their hands of the franchise and finally move on with their lives. But then a very sad thing happened: Gregg Hoffman, one of the producers behind the series, unexpectedly passed away at the very young age of 42. The three agreed to make one last final movie in his name, so production was begun right away.
The marketing for the film basically boiled down to “It's Halloween, time for another Saw movie! Come on, what else are you going to go see?”. That's good and all because I am literally the target audience for that mind set, but it's just so devoid of any kind of creativity whatsoever. If you need further proof of this, Lionsgate didn't even bother to screen the film for critics which is NEVER a good sign. The studio knows it's not a good movie, so there's no point in everyone else telling them it sucks.
But none of this mattered because suckers like me made Saw III the highest grossing film of the entire series, guaranteeing more and more sequels. Horror fans are funny that way, we'll pretty much throw money at ANYTHING as long as someone gets cut up, how else do you explain the Wrong Turn franchise set to release its SIXTH film later this month? There's still four more movies to go, so let's dive in head first and see what Jigsaw’s latest game is with A Ghoul Versus Saw III!
Note: this review is for the Unrated version of Saw III, not to be confused with the Unrated Director's Cut. The Director's Cut is generally considered to be pointless, so Lionsgate seemingly has buried its existence by letting it go out of print. To my knowledge, it's never even been released on blu-ray. I'll point out the major differences in this review.
The film opens right where we left off in Saw II, with Matthews trapped in the bathroom screaming. Coming to his senses, he finds Gordon's old hacksaw but finds it useless on his chains. Looking at the good doctor's severed foot he attempts to recreate that horrific scene but can't bring himself to start cutting which is pretty damn understandable. Looking some more, he finds the toilet lid Adam used to kill Zep and starts using it to CRUSH HIS FOOT. Yowza! Many stomach turning smashes later, he is able to squeeze his mangled leg through his the cuff around his leg as the title card rolls.
We join Sergeant Rigg and his SWAT team as they break into a school by cutting through a metal door, alerted by a neighbour who heard an explosion inside the building. They find the remains of a body, Rigg calling Kerry in as this has Jigsaw written all over it. Another detective on the scene, Mark Hoffman, tells her the body is not Matthews. Hoffman is played by Costas Mandylor, an actor with a resume of mostly bit parts until he landed this role. We flashback what happened to the victim, a man named Troy. He awakes to find himself sitting in a chair with chains attached all over his body while Billy the Puppet pops up on a TV and gives his spiel about how far Troy will go for freedom.
This is the Classroom Trap, the requirements are Troy has to rip all of the chains implanted in his body out and walk out the door before a nail bomb goes off. We watch as he does this in graphic detail for what feels like hours but isn't fast enough and dies. We see Kerry is carrying a large amount of guilt over Matthews' disappearance, blaming it all on herself. Rigg does his best to console her as he wonders how the very sick Jigsaw is still able to set up such elaborate traps. The answer better be revealed as magic by the end of this series, or else nothing else is acceptable.
Kerry posits the theory Jigsaw has help, as well as pointing out how this trap is different than his usual modus operandi because of the door that was welded shut, meaning the trap was never escapable. The camera cuts to Hoffman several times during all of this, the detective sneering at her ideas. The scene jumps ahead to later that night as we join Meyer in her apartment taking a bath, the film actually resorting to a cheap jump scare as he sees Matthews in the mirror but it turns out to be a hallucination. No Saw, just... no. Her night continues to get worse as Pig Mask kidnaps her and she wakes up in the dreaded Angel Trap. This one has her suspended in the air wearing a vest that is attached to her ribs by a series of hooks with a beaker of acid hanging right in front of her. Billy, take it away!
“Hello Kerry, I want to play a game. Up until now you have spent your life among the dead piecing together their final moments. You are good at this because you, like them, are also dead, dead on the inside. You identify more with a cold corpse than you do with a living human. I believe you want to join your true family, indeed your only family, in death. The device you are wearing is hooked into your ribcage and by the time this tape is finished you will have one minute to find a way out. At the end of that minute... you should know better than anyone what happens then. There is a simple key that will unlock the harness, Kerry. It is right in front of you. All you have to do is reach in and take it, but do it quickly. The acid will dissolve the key in a matter of seconds. Make your choice”.
Kerry reaches into the acid, screaming out as it burns her severely. She manages to get the key and unlock the vest, but can't pry it off her body. Her attention is diverted by Amanda watching just off camera, the minute running out and the vest ripping off most of Kerry's torso. Well goddamn, killing off the expert on Jigsaw before she got a chance to actually DO anything wasn't the best decision they could have made in my opinion.
We jump across town (they've never actually said WHERE these movies take place) to meet Dr. Lynn Denlon, a doctor at the local hospital. She is played by Bahar Soomkeh, an actress primarily from the world of television. She's getting ready to leave for work while her husband Chris tries to talk to her, telling her he wants a divorce. She just rolls her eyes and leaves. We can see she's very miserable and detached from her life, evidenced by whatever pills she's popping. At work she ignores an urgent page to report to the ER so she can blankly stare at the wall, a nurse grabbing her and forcing her to do her job. Hmm, I daresay Jigsaw just found his next vic- oh and there's Pig Mask even before I got a chance to finish that sentence!
Lynn wakes up in Jigsaw's latest torture fun house, but simply tied to a wheelchair and not in some nightmare inducing trap. Amanda is there, wheeling her into another room to see the man himself. Jigsaw is in considerably worse condition than last we saw him, bedridden and sucking on an oxygen mask. Amanda places Jigsaw's medical file on Lynn's lap to read as Jigsaw tells the doctor he was once a patient of hers. Furthermore, he wants to (wait for it) play a game!
As Jigsaw does a live performance of Lynn's shortfalls (retreating into herself while neglecting her husband and child), Amanda attaches the infamous Shotgun Collar around Lynn's neck, Jigsaw explaining it's linked to his heart-rate monitor. I say infamous because if you've played either of the video games those damn things are the bane of your existence. If Jigsaw flatlines or if Lynn goes too far out of range, the shotgun shells on the device will be activated and blow her head off.
Amanda shows Lynn some nearby monitors, explaining there's a man about to go through a series of trials. All Lynn has to do is keep Jigsaw alive long enough for the man to complete the trials and she'll be free to go, just like that. Excuse me while I remain dubious. The camera cuts to the man waking up in a giant wooden crate, finding the trademarked tape player next to him.
“Hello Jeff. Over the past few years you have become a shell of your former self, consumed with hatred and vengeance, vengeance against the drunk driver who killed your only son, vengeance against the killer who, to your surprise and dismay, was set free after a hasty trial. Today however, it is you who will be put on trial.
“To escape from where you are you will have to face a series of tests. You will have to suffer to move forward through each of them, but with each one you will also have a chance, a chance to forgive. When you complete the tests, I promise you, you will will finally come face to face with the man responsible for the loss of your child. That will be your ultimate test. Can you forgive him? You better hurry though, in two hours the doors will lock and this place will become your tomb. This is what you've been waiting for, Jeff. Let the game begin.”
Jeff kicks his way out of the crate as he get a brief flashback of his home life, where his hobbies involve wearing a bathrobe, drinking, and playing with a gun while he pretends to shoot the man who killed his son Dylan. Healthy! Things go downhill VERY quickly as we see he also has a young daughter, Corbett, that he is COMPLETELY neglecting and is borderline abusive towards. Jeff IS supposed to be the “hero” in this thing right? Are we sure it wasn't supposed to be Kerry? Because, um, she was actually likable? No? Damn.
By the way, Jeff is played by Scottish actor Angus Macfayden who is probably best known for his performance as Robert the Bruce in the wretchedly overrated movie Braveheart but in recent times has become Internet Famous for his role as the villainous Komodo in 1997's little seen Warriors Of Virtue. I talk a lot about Jeremy Irons' batshit crazy acting in Dungeons And Dragons (which I'll finally review next month, PROMISE!), but Macfayden's scenery chewing in that movie might actually TOP THAT. It's one of those glorious times an actor knows he's in under contract to be in a horrible movie and acts his absolute worse in hopes it'll never get releas- what's that? Why yes, I am stalling so I don't have to keep watching Saw III, why do you ask?
Alright FINE, back to the review. Although I do think we'll have more fun if I just kept talking about Warriors Of Virtue. Pig Mask shows up to save us from this Godawful flashback, as it appears both Jeff and Corbett got captured. Jeff starts making his way down a hallway, finding a box with a note, a key, and a torn picture of himself inside it. The note tells him to open the door, so he does just that and finds himself in a giant freezer, the door locking shut behind him. Inside there's a naked woman chained up inside by her wrists, Jeff trying to use his key to free her but it doesn't fit the locks. He finds another tape player, which informs him this is his first test.
Jigsaw introduces the woman as Danica Scott, even though the subtitles think she's named Denica. It seems she was the only witness to the hit and run that killed Dylan, but was too scared to say anything. There's a key behind some pipes in the room that will open the door as well as her chains, Jigsaw wondering if Jeff has it in him to save her. The catch quickly presents itself as hoses begin spraying her with water, ensuring she will soon freeze to death if he doesn't act.
While this was a very nice try to divert our attention, I'm not biting. HOW IN THE FUCK DID JIGSAW KNOW ABOUT DANICA? I've complained a lot already about him knowing things he possibly couldn't, but this takes the cake. I suppose you could make the case in the last movie he went through all the files of the people Matthews framed and found the evidence didn't measure up, but how could he have discovered Danica was a witness if no record was filed? What, did he happen to be there that day three years ago and made a note of her license plate? Did he hack all the traffic cameras in the city to find her? Did he TRAVEL BACK IN TIME to that fateful day?! I wouldn't put that past him and his bag of infinite tricks at this point.
“Jigsaw knows everything, shut up and stop thinking about stuff!”.
Right. Jeff just stands there watching Danica freeze, yelling at her for not doing anything. She apologizes but it's too late, the water turning her into an ice statue. Quick, call the trolls from Frozen! I guess Jeff did attempt to save her, but it's so half-assed it really doesn't count.
Jeff grabs the key and leaves the room, finding another box waiting for him. So that was a fail then? I don't really understand what Jigsaw was going for with this one, there were no negative consequences for Jeff since he obviously didn't give a damn about Danica. Sure, maybe he'll feel guilty down the road but that's not Jigsaw's gimmick at all. Inside the box is a torn picture of Dylan, a single bullet, and a message saying “One bullet will end it all”.
We cut away to the film's B-plot, which involves Lynn prepping to do some emergency brain surgery on Jigsaw to relive the pressure of the tumor on his brain. Shawnee Smith SHINES in these scenes as she relentlessly taunts Lynn while showing how much she truly cares for her mentor. Smith is BY FAR the only thing in this entire movie making it even remotely watchable at this point, and that's because she's a professional damn it!
Continuing his trek through the factory, Jeff finds himself trapped in another room with an auto-locking door. Inside this room is a giant vat with a man tied to the bottom of it, along with the customary tape player. The message informs us the man in the vat is the judge who gave Dylan's murderer a light sentence, and it's up to Jeff to free him with a key. The key is hidden in a collection of stuffed animals belonging to Dylan, the only way the key can be found in time is to push a button that'll incinerate them away. The theme here is Dylan has held onto the stuffed animals far too long and needs to learn to let go.
So why is time short? WELL, above the vat is a series of mechanized hooks that are dropping pig corpses into a grinder that turns them into pulp, the repugnant sludge flooding into the vat and slowly drowning the judge. Why yes, this is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen, thank you for asking! Just like with Danica instead of springing into action, Jeff stops to yell at the judge for giving Dylan's killer only six months in prison. We learn the killer's name is Timothy Young, which had me waiting the rest of the movie to see if he was related to Amanda. He wasn't, Saw just REALLY sucks at coming up with names. In the first film you had two Allisons and in the last there were two Daniels, which has always bugged me for some reason.
Click here for Part 2!