Thursday, October 23, 2014

SAW Retrospective: Saw III (2006)

Director:  Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring:  Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Donnie Wahlberg, Leigh Whannel, Costas Mandylor, Dina Meyer, Lyriq Bent
Rated: R

Death is a surprise party.

You might sort of remember this film being advertised as sort of the "final" film.  Which that's only partially true.  Lionsgate was indeed going on with a fourth film.  As it was seen though, this was to be Leigh Whannel and James Wan's final involvment outside of the producer in name only type roll.  It also may have been intended to be Darren Lynn Bousman's last go as well as many of the players who had stuck on board for the last couple entries.  So don't called "BS" on them, everyone knew there would be a fourth (this film plants seeds for subsequent films for crying out loud), that whole schtick had more of a personal kind of meaning to it.   And if you were a solid enough fan of the series then you were likely aware of that already.
Right away with this third film you can just tell by looking at it that the production budget was raised quite a bit.  Its the best looking film of the series so far.  Also, it helps that it has some of the best cinematography too up to this point.  The first two had film stock that looked akin to 90s independent cinema and really sort of surprisingly looked aged when I popped them back in.  Here you get a very clean and clear image in comparison. 
One of the fun parts of the opening of this movie is the surprise that Detective Eric Mathews returns.  There was a whole behind the scenes curfufal that Donnie Wahlberg didn't want to come back.  That he was doing his best to find a film to shoot that would clash with the schedule of Saw III.  He even came out with a press release notating that he would not be a part of the film.  It came off like he was a real dick on the subject.  But it was all a rouse to deliver the surprise that he was indeed in this film and we would see what happened to him after the second.  Not only was he left of the credits, but Leigh Whannel reprised his role of Adam, too, making it a big surprise.  I love these kind of things that manage to somehow not get leaked or reported.  A recent series I did a retrospective on here did something similar to great surprise. 
Saw III has everything going on overload here and I'm loving every minute of it.  Some of it lends itself to parity and some is just some good horror-fictional fun.  Honestly, a lot of this movie could have been titled "The Making Of Saw".  This series makes its mission on keeping its continuity intact and piecing everything together that they can to make it work in hindsight even if it wasn't intended to be that way when it first was written.  In III, we get loaded with flashbacks on Jigsaw and Amanda's relationship.  We even get pointless ones showing them setting up the room for the first movie.  I just find it comical watching Jigsaw looking in the mirror making sure his makeup looks good and then injecting himself with whatever makes his heartrate go down just to point out how stupid nitpickers can be.  This series is starting to let loose a little bit and have some fun with itself and its fans, and it makes for a really entertaining venture.  Much better than just a bunch of people getting trapped and seeing who can improv or scream the word "Fuck" into as many lines as they can.
This is really Shawnee Smith's movie.  She's totally the star and its an interesting change of pace to watch this mentally disturbed person deal with this crazy situation.  The perspective is a tricky one but I think Bousman handles it quite well.  Meanwhile, we also get a dual story of Bahar Soomekh and Angus Macfadyen as they have "games" to play themselves.  Whatever happened to Soomekh?  I really like her coming out of Crash and thought she might take off but after this movie she just sort of drifted off.  I love the Running Man concept tied to keeping Jigsaw alive and the cringing scenes of watching her do some makeshift brain surgery.  And MacFadyen's maze is a bit over the top, but I dig what they are going for with it.  I really dig that he's within a journey that involves saving others from traps rather than it just being him in a trap (well, I guess he is, but you get the picture).  There's something more here than just having Angus Macfadyen tortured the whole movie.
Oh and since the status quo is that a returning police investigator has to be nixed from the cast, we say goodbye to franchise vet Dina Meyer here.  She gets to sort of have her own little mini movie to kick this thing off before we move to the Macfadyen maze and Jigsaw surgery portion of the film.  She gets a pretty damn viscious trap though too.  But hey, if they were gonna bump me off, I'd want something extravagant as well.  So, this little paragraph goes out to my respect and and sorrow for the loss of Detective Allison Kerry.  We also briefly meet Detective Mark Hoffman who, I don't know if this was because I know what's coming, has a pretty substantial presence considering the little amount of screen time he has at the beginning and then never returns.
One thing that sticks out when you get to this third entry; NUDITY!  There is just a full on naked woman in the first trap that Angus Macfadyen has to get through and try to "save" someone.  Up til now, Saw feel like it has been pretty nudity free.  Yes, there's been people in their undergarments.  And allegedly if you slow down the guy that burns himself in the first movie during the "rage" editing you can see he's fully nude.  But honestly, this is the first time you see a naked person plain as day.  For R-rated exploitative horror, I was surprised at how eye-opening it was for this series when we get to here.  Mutilated bodies, people cutting off limbs, digging through poop water in a toilet?  Okay, yeah cool.  Nudity?  Oh my how shocking!  LOL.
Saw III sort of feels like a product that's been through a couple editions and troubleshoots and come out with a well oiled machine.  The producers, writers and director listened to fans and critical judgements and while up'ing the ante also fixed some of the rough patches with the series.  For example, we get probably the best acted film of the series and on top of that we get lesser new characters, but ones that come with a little more weight and attachment to them.  And mainly they are supporting characters to the forefront of this being the villains' story.  I guess I just find Saw III to be a very unique angle and choice to tell the story using a blueprint we've been using and slightly adjusting for two entries prior to this one.  It just sort of stands out.
I must admit, maybe I'm not too bright, but Saw III's climactic multi-twists did catch me by surprise.  I think I guessed the husband-wife thing a little bit before it was made clear, but the rest of it did really get me and back when I first watched it I thought it was pretty awesome.  Its weird how after the first viewing this film takes on a whole knew life when you know the twist of it.  And they have the bravery to just up and kill their titular characters right there.  To look down the road a bit, they have bigger guts to actually KEEP them dead.  They know as well as we all do that when you chop off Michael Myers' head, you leave it decapitated.
While it didn't make my Favorite Part 3's list from last year (Possibly because I just wasn't thinking about it), Saw III definitely fits the criteria.  Its definitely the best production start to finish of any of the films to this point.  As I guess I'll repeat for like the umpteenth time in this piece, I do mostly enjoy the story angle and focus of this film rather than just being another "people in traps" movie.  Which yes, there are PLENTY of people in traps here, I mean its a Saw movie.  But it just feels like the film is more interested in its characters than it is just mutilating people.  Anywho, I'm probably just a bit crazy like Amanda.  Tell me so in the credits!

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