Saw III Review
I was a big admirer of the original Saw back in 2004, largely because it took me so much by surprise. I knew nothing about it, save that it was meant to be fairly brutal and that it came blazing a trail of expectations from horror fans. It blew me away and I eagerly awaited the sequel. Saw II didn’t disappoint, even though the appeal passed from plot and character through to the incredibly inventive death traps which Jigsaw thought up to get rid of some pleasingly unsympathetic victims. By the end of that film, however, I wasn’t sure where else the series could go. The twist in the second movie was ironic and funny, and would have provided a perfect wrap-up as far as I was concerned.
Saw III proves that some of my misgivings were well founded. It’s far from being a bad film but it represents one trip to many to this particular well and the formula is beginning to not only show through but becoming somewhat threadbare. For a detailed discussion of the film, which I am in general agreement with, I direct you to Kevin O’Reilly’s admirable DVD Times cinema review.
All I would like to add to this is the acknowledgement of the surprise I felt upon watching the film. I am an ardent horror fan and I keep track of developments in the genre, good and bad – I even sat through the remake of The Wicker Man and found something nice to say about it. So it’s from this perspective that I note that Saw III is a very nasty film, one of the nastiest that I’ve seen for some time. It’s gruelling, graphic and, if you take it at all seriously, very upsetting, not least because it taps into your emotions as well as your baser responses. It’s disturbing to see the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda taken into some dark places and more disturbing still to observe that Jigsaw has, by now, become the only character in the films to be given more than two dimensions and is, de facto, the anti-hero of the series.
The film also contains a very harrowing death scene involving a naked woman and a power shower; the kind of moment which led to the Video Recordings Act being implemented, which gives you an idea of how much things have been liberalised on the censorship front over the past twenty years. I don’t have any objections to this sort of nastiness – indeed, when it’s done well, it’s very effective – but I’m not entirely certain that more might be gained, in the fourth instalment, from cutting back on the brutal set-pieces and aiming for a little more suspense, rather than going straight for the gross-out.
Saw III is presented by Lions Gate DVD and there is a marked improvement in picture quality from the EIV discs provided for the first two. This is the 'Extreme Edition' and contains an extended version of the film which would seem to correspond with the US Unrated version, though as I don't have both to hand I can't offer a comparison.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 and has been anamorphically enhanced. It’s a very good transfer, especially bearing in mind the problematic nature of the film which is often visually very extreme in terms of colour and lighting. The colours throughout are faithful to the theatrical presentation; very strong and striking with a green tinge predominating. There is a slightly grainy look throughout but, again, this is consistent with what I saw in the cinema. There are no problems with artifacting and there is ample detail to take in.
There are two soundtracks; one in Dolby Digital 5.1 and one in Dolby Digital 2.0. Both tracks are fine but the 5.1 track has the edge. Busy surround channels, deeply unpleasant sound effects and pounding music make it a memorable experience.
There are three commentary tracks, which strikes me as gilding the lily somewhat. The first is the best one, featuring director Darren Lynn Bousman, writer Leigh Wannell and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. I say this is the best because it’s where you get information for the first time. The other two tracks tend to repeat much of what is said on the first and sometimes contradict things – about five different moments turn out to be “the biggest problem we had with the MPAA”. Still, it’s nice to hear Bousman spark off against his editor and DP on the third track and producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg have a few things of interest to say on the second – though this is the most sporadic of the three. Of all the speakers, the most eloquent is Leigh Wannell and I could have done with more of him.
The extra features are, apart from the commentaries, fairly superficial but interesting as far as they go. “The Traps of Saw III” is an overview of the various traps which are, apparently, more emotional and psychological but strike me as much the same as we’ve seen before, only more elaborate. The actors show an extraordinary amount of faith in the skill of the visual effects team, which is admirable considering what they’re asked to go through. This runs just over nine minutes and contains a reasonable mixture of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and film clips. “The Details Of Death”, lasting eight minutes, is about the props used in the film and concentrates on moments such as the memorably disgusting pig-slaughtering and the brain surgery. “Darren’s Diary” is, apparently, the ‘anatomy of a director’, during which Mr Bousman spends nine minutes hamming it up for the benefit of the camera – though I may be doing him an injustice since it’s possible that he’s as annoying as this all the time. More interesting are two deleted scenes; the first features an extended version of Lynn looking round Jigsaw’s warehouse before having a violent fight with Amanda; and the second is a longer flashback of Amanda from Saw 2. Finally, we get the theatrical trailer and the original teaser.
The menus have a blackly comic feel and subtitles are provided for the film but not for the commentaries or the other extra features.