The Saw films' popularity is really a head scratcher when one looks back on them. The first film was inventive with its budget, but was ultimately shackled by gross overacting and a twist ending that insulted the audience's intelligence. The sequel added more characters into the ridiculous mix -- and with them, more cringe-inducing deaths for the fright fans. Both installments were eventually hampered by a manic MTV style that yearns to be stopped at all costs from those who understand how true horror filmmaking can be effective. Now here's Saw III and -- boy, oh boy -- do the guys behind the scenes really think they're something special with this one. The flick can still be considered a horror film thanks to the serial-killer subject matter, but when it comes down to it, this sucker is drama-gore all the way. The nasty moments are still effective, but the series' creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell, along with director Darren Bousman, are even more concerned with trying to make the series a classy effort rather than the cheap Seven knock off it once was. Their approach to this sequel is directly what makes it a failure. Set up as an unending series of flashbacks, Saw III tries to explain how everything in the first two films fits into this one -- which is every bit as tedious as it sounds. It also adds in two competing storylines that are terribly unbalanced, one of which has a structure that tries to be clever and smart, but ends up smelling like a lot of rank gas. As if that weren't enough, the deaths feel as if they've been cut down in the film as to fit in more character time, something that doesn't benefit poor Shawnee Smith, who ends up carrying most of the movie's drummed-up emotional baggage. And as for those twists? Yep, there's a wallop of one in here that is as eye-rolling as they come, yet it should be expected from a series whose sleeves are endlessly filled with sucker-punching rabbits. It should be noted that the speed of production is indeed impressive, as is the filmmakers desire to interconnect everything to make a cohesive product, but this just may be the most serious they're ever going to be able to take this property -- let's just hope the masses are satisfied with this overreaching stab at melodramatic legitimacy.
by Jeremy Wheeler review