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In recent years, punishment in schools has
moved way past sitting in the corner for 15
minutes with your head between your legs.

Review written by: Alex Sandell

If you're watching somebody getting tortured on the silver screen and it's the last weekend before Halloween, it must be another Saw!  The series has essentially laid claim to this final weekend in October and with the first two bringing in money that could make Warren Buffett's head spin like Linda Blair's, a third was inevitable.  If this one does well, we'll have a fourth -- same Splat Time, same Splat Channel!

Fans will no doubt still be thrilled with the third, but will even they start to recognize that much of the film is merely going through the motions?  Is it all getting a little too familiar?  Does the third bring anything to the table that the first two didn't offer?  Does it matter?  The box-office take will answer that question. 

Putting aside the whole "familiarity breeding contempt" quandary; this is the second sequel to Saw and it delivers everything the fans of the first two wanted ... and more.  This is the most vile Saw yet.  It's louder than before, gorier than before, meaner than before, and the torture devices are more painful than before.

Essentially Saw III makes the first two look about as intimidating as a child's six piece jigsaw puzzle.  This is for the hardcore horror fan and for the hardcore horror fan only.  This isn't for the casual fan, the easily grossed out, or those who are prone to bouts of vomiting upon viewing scenes of torment that run as long as 15 minutes in length (straight, without a break).  Put it this way:  If you were disturbed by the first two, stay far, far, far away from the third (like so far away, you're in one of those family friendly auditoriums playing The Grudge 2).

Saw III is Takashi Miike sick.  If you're not familiar with Miike's work, then you most likely shouldn't make yourself familiar with Saw III.  Truth be told, I watched Miike's Imprint a few days before viewing Saw III and actually found Saw III to be the nastier of the two movies.  Depending on your tolerance level for the intolerably iniquitous, that's either the greatest compliment I could give the film or the ultimate put-down.  No matter how you cut it, Saw III is disgusting.

At the same time, this is probably the best written of the Saw movies.  Again penned by Leigh Whannell -- screenwriter or co-screenwriter of all three films -- the story takes a deeper look at what makes Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) tick.  It establishes the relationship between Jigsaw and his makeshift apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) in an admirable way and, while the acting occasionally leaves something to be desired, no one approaches the level of awful that Cary Elwes hit in the original film.

The story centers around a couple of extensive "games."  One involving a father (Angus Macfadyen) whose son's life was claimed by a drunk driver and has since been seeking vengeance.  The other primary story revolves around a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) whose life has become nothing more than a series of performing surgeries, screwing up relationships and popping anti-depressants. 

It is the doctor's responsibility to keep Jigsaw alive while the angry father completes his "game."  The doctor is tied to Jigsaw's heart-monitor and if Jigsaw flat lines the contraption put around the doctor's neck will literally blow her head off.  If there were ever a need for good beside manner, this would probably be the time.

With only two main pawns in Jigsaw's game the movie may sound slower than the last, but you'd be surprised.  The father keeps meeting up with people who helped invalidate his son's death.  The witness who fled the scene.  The judge who only sentenced the drunk driver to six months.  The drunk driver himself.  And yes, they are all caught up in exceedingly repugnant torture traps. 

The father has to decide whether to kill each of them or offer forgiveness.  The doctor herself mainly stays busy keeping Jigsaw alive or arguing with Amanda, but finds her commitment to family being tested by her sadistic patient.  Both stories are equally intense and come together in one of the most revulsive 15 minutes in the history of mainstream cinema.

I've been at this horror thing a long time and am certainly not the squeamish type, but by the end of the series of events featuring hogs and brain surgery, I was feeling a little sick to my stomach.  That is something that has never happened to me in a movie theater before, unless I was coming down with a bug or sitting through a movie as awful as The Cat in the Hat

Following up one of the most vile scenes in a film with one of the most painful scenes in a movie tested even my limits.  Halfway through I turned to my friend (yes, for those wondering after reading yesterday's update -- I did find a date for the midnight showing) and said/asked/exclaimed, "When are they going to be fucking done with this already?!?" 

A lot of the credit for my near tossing of cookies belongs to director Darren Lynn Bousman, who has almost miraculously improved as a director since he helmed Saw II.  While his style is still far too flashy and MTV-ish, he has learned how to hold on a moment just long enough to make the audience wish he'd pull back.  With Saw III he has created a film that is genuinely intense, instead of one that just seems like it should have been. 

I still long for the patience behind the camera James Wan showed with the original Saw, but Bousman is definitely getting closer.  It helps that Whannell has written what I sincerely think is the best screenplay in the Saw series.  Of course it still suffers from some of the same stilted dialogue and overreaching plot threads that bogged the first two films down, but it feels like it goes somewhere.  At the same time, it may feel a bit too much like where it's going is to Saw IV

This one leaves more loose ends than the first two films.  It makes a horror fan hope it's a hit so we can get another one, but at the same time it begs the question:  How are they going to top the third?  Saw III is about as mean-spirited and gritty as a movie can get.  I'm afraid the next one, in an attempt to keep the audience members at the edge of their seats, may reach serious levels of absurdity.  I'm sure some will consider Saw III to have already reached those levels.

This isn't the perfect movie, but if you liked the first two it won't let you down.  At least it won't let you down if you can stomach the bloody blitz that it provides.  It may even surprise you with its ambitions.  The movie does feel slightly less like a quick "cash-in" than the second one did and is a hell of a lot more hardcore than the majority of movies with a "3" or "III" at the end of the title.

So let's forget about how the series will inevitably take a nosedive in its fourth outing and enjoy what we've been given for Halloween 2006.  If "enjoy" is the right word to use when describing a film such as Saw III.  Maybe "endure" is more fitting.  This is one of those movies you'll brag about getting through if you manage to sit through the entire thing without closing your eyes.  You've been warned.

Agree? Disagree? Considering Hare Krishna? Email Alex!

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