Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Seven Days of Sawdom: Day Three

Hello, all, and welcome back to my retrospective of the Saw franchise. So now on this third day of Sodom, quite a few things change about the Saw franchise. Darren Lynn Bousman is still at the helm, but the gore is really upped quite a bit in this latest installment.

Oh, and this is about the point in the Saw franchise where it begins to get extraordinarily difficult to talk about the movies themselves without spoiling the previous installments. So, in lieu of that:

There will be spoilers for extremely plot-sensitive details from the previous Saw movies. If you have not seen the first two installments of the franchise, turn back now and watch them before reading the review. You can't say I didn't warn you when your franchise is spoiled.

And I'm afraid that's not even the start of the crazy spoilers here...

So yeah. Since this summary can only go so far, I'll get started with today's movie...


Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is playing a final game, and in this final game he has wrangled Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) to keep him alive while Jeff (Angus Macfayden) completes a series of trials in which he is asked to spare those involved with a car accident that killed his son. And all the while, he watches over his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) as she presides over both trials.

And... shit goes down. Heavily. The ante is upped in terms of everything. So for starters?

Well, the gore is beginning to take incredible prominence through here. Where the first installment did with using a jump cut to help our imagination when people were severing their feet, now it willingly shows a whole lot of nasty stuff that goes on. We see someone's ribcage get torn out in graphic detail. We see a whole lot of other gore in there... And it concentrates on how much suffering is being inflicted that it begins to edge almost on the side of glorifying it. There are still screaming, but I got less of the human suffering aspect and more of the 'look at us, we're actually making people do this'.

And it takes a bit of the tension away as a result. Yes, we see the gore, but it's the actions of the characters that ultimately render it all moot. Jeff is supposed to be helping the people that he isn't supposed to like. But... half the time, he just ends up standing there sitting on his ass while the person is suffering very close to where he is. And it steals away from the tension, as you know that he's likely just going to stand there to let the poor people die. While it does make the character look like a moron, that's the least of the problems with this approach; it also makes it fairly obvious that the gore is the centerpiece of the film.

What it does right, however, is that it takes an angle of deconstructing Jigsaw's mythos. I had to mention Amanda in the summary; throughout much of the film, it does a lot of deconstruction of Jigsaw's M.O. with Amanda, the only one who's survived his games, and also his apprentice (as revealed at the end of Saw II-- hence the spoiler warning). It's clearly shown that Amanda hasn't learned anything from her test from the first movie, and this is highlighted through her actions in the movie. Thus, it's pretty clear that this was meant to be a swan song for the franchise and just why Jigsaw's methods are doomed to failure. This deconstruction alone makes it worthwile, but it doesn't explore it fully. And unfortunately, I can't blame the writers for this for reasons I'll get into after giving the rating.

Oh, and Jigsaw isn't the only one. It's also great for looking into the nature of forgiveness, given the nature of much of Jeff's trials. He basically is given an opportunity to spare everyone he encounters, and it's interesting to see his thought processes as he contemplates his son and how the people he has to save figure into things. This alone is enough to redeem the film in my eyes.

So in short? While the overreliance of gore to raise disgust at what is going on is beginning to chip away greatly at the tension, Saw III still more or less succeeds on the virtue of the fact that it works exceedingly well as a look into forgiveness and Jigsaw's M.O. It's pretty clear what the writers had in mind, but... well... I'll give the rating, talk about where the franchise is heading, and then talk about that.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don't want to see it, don't.

All right. So...

Here in Saw III is the franchise's real beginnings as a series that puts a lot of emphasis on so-termed 'torture porn'. Now I'm really beginning to see the reputation the series has gotten, just from the fact that it's all insane. And really, I began to think, 'wow, the prosthetics for this must've been insane' as time went on, which didn't help the tension all that much. But still, it begs a problem of why you must have gore in there in the first place. The original Saw did well enough by leaving it to the imagination that people were experiencing really gory deaths (as evidenced by the cut from Dr. Gordon sawing his foot off), so it baffles me why we would really need the gore.

In some ways, though, it's necessary for the deconstruction of Amanda's character, as she made a few traps for this one. The problem with her traps is all of them are inescapable, which goes against Jigsaw's general M.O. of giving his victims a chance to escape his traps (even if doing so would require absolutely superhuman levels of willpower to do so), and it gives a look into Amanda's character. And in looking at how Amanda operates, we find that Jigsaw's methods don't work. The gore has to figure into Amanda's traps somehow, and while we could've done without it for Jeff's, for Amanda's, I can't imagine we would be able to think of her traps the same way without actually seeing the terrifying things they do to their victims; the fact that they were inescapable combined with the gore combine to see just how messed up Amanda is.

But it doesn't go all the way with this, and unfortunately the writers aren't to blame for that. It's funny that the series' intentional swan song is the one that kicks off its reputation; if the writers would've had their way, they would've ended the franchise here. But if executives milked A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Final Destination for all of those respective series' splatter-house potential, they were going to milk Saw for it as well. It's painfully obvious that we could've left it as a horror trilogy, and honestly it would've been great if we could have left it there with a third installment that more thoroughly explored why Jigsaw's MO doesn't work.

Alas, for we have Saw IV. And V. And VI. And 3D, coming to theaters at the end of this month. Horror executives don't really know when to end the series.

And this only decreases my hopes for the rest of the franchise, as it will no doubt only get more ludicrous from here. And that frightens me more than any of the games in this movie, to a degree I can't even begin to describe.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, at the sunset of the Third Day of Sawdom. I'll see you guys next time, and I hope you'll join me on the Fourth Day of Sawdom when I review Saw IV.

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