This is when it really got sick. This is when it became more about the torture, and less about suspense. This is when it got obsessed with suffering rather than ingenious puzzles and plot twists. In other words, this is when the most successful horror franchise of all time became, to put it bluntly, shit.
The first two Saw films were enjoyable because they asked their audience to imagine what they would do in terrifying, physically painful and psychologically strenuous situations. This film wants its audience to enjoy graphic, sadistic and at times sexualised torture. This is cinema at its most appalling and repugnant.
I enjoyed Saw and Saw II. The first, although shot on a shoe-string budget, was a masterclass in tension control. The second was a twisted, almost Big Brother-esque locked-house thriller. Saw III merely delivers grisly set piece after grisly set piece, with only a wafer thin plotline connecting them. One gets the feeling the filmmakers would much rather throw away that tiresome piece of convention call narrative, and just take their audiences on a carnage ride through depraved and vicious scenes of extreme violence.
Thankfully the acting is better here than in some of the other instalments, but the script is so lazily hashed together all characterisation is reduced to lazy and unconvincing flashback scenes. We can’t really care for anyone involved.
This film is the turning point. We are supposed to stop caring about the good things in life (which is in conflict with the film’s hypocritical theme of appreciating the world we live in) and only concentrate on the gore, and how much there is of it. It is supposed to satisfy us. I don’t think I’m alone in finding this extremely troubling.
The most horrid scenes? A naked woman is dangled from the ceiling in a giant freezer while water is sprayed on her. The water freezes on her skin. The camera salaciously zooms around her naked form while she screams in pain. A man has to watch the sentimental possessions of his dead little boy burn while another man is drowned in rotting animal gore. A police officer gets her chest ripped open after having the skin on her hand burned away by acid.
The end has a tasteless and immensely audacious final scene where Jigsaw, the psychopath organising all this torture, performs a closing monologue/explanation which is intended to justify the whole thing and even give it a moral edge. Only the most gullible or simple viewers will buy this.
Fans of this sick series cling to the excuse that it is fantasy, and therefore not harmful, but by doing so they insult their own intelligence and miss the point. It isn’t about what the film contains; it’s about how it is presented, how the audience is made to feel while watching it, and in what way the film relies on viewer complicity. But there have been more since, and will doubtless be more in the future. But I try not to dwell on this sad fact too much. It depresses me greatly.
Saw III (2006), directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate, certificate 18.