Tobin Bell as Jigsaw/John
Shawnee Smith as Amanda
Angus Macfadyen as Jeff
Bahar Soomekh as Lynn
Dina Meyer as Kerry
J. LaRose as Troy
Donnie Wahlberg as Eric Matthews
Debra Lynne McCabe as Danica

Directed by Darren Lynn Brousman

Featuring more gruesome deathtraps than the previous two movies, “Saw III” has more blood and more gore but shows signs of losing steam.

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) lays dying as he and his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) remain in hiding from the police. To try to keep him alive, Amanda kidnaps a surgeon (Bahar Soomekh) and forces her to do surgery, while the father of a boy killed in a car accident (Angus Macfayden) goes through a gauntlet of Jigsaw’s traps with a chance to get even with those responsible.

For the third year in a row, Jigsaw is back playing games with his victims, placing them in elaborate death traps and giving them difficult choices if they hope to escape. For his second movie in the series, director Darren Lynn Bousman ups the blood and gore ante to the point where anyone even remotely squeamish will have a hard time watching, but those who love that aspect of the movie will be in heaven.

Continuing shortly after the end of the last movie, Donnie Wahlberg’s Detective Eric Walters is still chained up in the basement bathroom but taking extreme measures to escape, while his former partner (Dina Meyer) is trying to find him. Instead, she locates the scattered remains of Jigsaw’s latest victim before falling prey to one of his deathtraps herself. By this point, you’re already thinking that they’ve run out of story ideas in favor of just showing one gory deathtrap after another, but this opening leads into two concurrent stories that make up the body of the movie, one involving a female doctor forced to keep Jigsaw/John alive while her husband runs a gauntlet of bloody tests to decide whether to save the people responsible for his son’s death in a car accident. Even if you’ve seen the first two movies, you might have trouble figuring out who everyone is without a recap, as the two new characters are introduced in a rather disjointed scene that doesn’t have much significance until much later in the movie.

The deathtraps and set pieces have gotten even more extravagant and gory than the last two movies with things that will make even those with the strongest stomachs wince, grimace or look away. It’s not polite to give away details because that’s where most of the fun lies, but it wouldn’t be advised to eat a big meal before seeing it. As Jigsaw’s deathtraps get more insane, it’s hard to believe that someone could actually build some of them (let alone someone on their death bed), so the premise starts to lose some credibility. While the blood and gore are definitely more excessive than before, the only trap that really disturbed me was Debra Lynne McCabe being strung up, completely naked from head-to-toe, in a trap that seems like little more than a male power fantasy. It’s a rare bit of needless misogyny from a series that has done a good job staying away from it. Otherwise, Bousman has made a great looking second film once he gets away from the trademark quick-editing and close-ups, but Charlie Clouser’s score seems rather uninspired compared to previous outings.

The movie jumps back and forth between the two different tones, the gore and thrills we’ve grown to love and the dialogue-intensive scenes between Jigsaw, Amanda and their captive surgeon, played by Bahar Soomekh. The latter is slow and pretty dull compared to the gauntlet of tests except for a gruesome operation that’s harder to watch than any of the deathtraps. When the movie starts to get into the history between Amanda and Jigsaw, that’s where things start to get interesting with some scenes almost acting as a prequel to the first movie, answering a lot of the questions that people may have had. Still, it’s hard to empathize much with Amanda’s character because she’s so abrasive. I’m not trying to be mean, but Shawnee Smith really is a terrible actress, and she’s much more convincing as a victim than she is as a villain. Then again, she has to compete with Tobin Bell, who has turned the subdued menace of his character into an art form, though his scenes aren’t nearly as strong as the ones in the last installment either.

The movie’s two major twists, neither which are very satisfying, leads to a shocking series of events and a cliffhanger ending that might not have the desired effect of people wanting to see how it’s resolved. It certainly feels like this premise has run its course and anything that comes after this movie really will be taking things too far.

The Bottom Line:
Fans of the “Saw” series should appreciate the way things are neatly wrapped up in what seems to be a decent enough conclusion to the horror trilogy, even if it takes a bit too long to get there by jumping erratically between drawn-out exposition scenes and excessively gory deathtraps. Falling somewhere between the first and third films in terms of content, “Saw III” surpasses the other movies in terms of gore, but unlike the other movies, it doesn’t leave you wanting more.