Saw III is the second film in the Saw franchise directed by Darren Lynn Bousman this time with James Wan rejoining Leigh Whannell as a co-writer. The film focuses on John Kramer (Tobin Bell) whose latest subject is doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) who has been tasked with keeping Kramer alive until another test subject Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) makes his way through his own trials. This marks the turn in the Saw franchise that delves away from the psychological horror of the initial instalment and finds its place as a straight up torture porn film. As well as being the first in the series to go fully into the torture porn genre it is also the first to rely heavily on flashbacks, a method of storytelling extensively featured the future films and integral to understanding crucial events of the past. As well as featuring some brutal traps the story of the Saw franchise begins to expand a lot here, introducing many new twists and setting up hints at what is to come.
One area that the previous film in the franchise lacked was providing characters you were able to care about, having 7 characters being put through Jigsaw’s traps meant you didn’t have any time to understand them and thus it was hard getting invested in their scenes. Here however there is a limited amount of main characters being tested which is good because you get to know a bit about Lynn and Jeff’s pasts and it gives you some drive to push for them to survive. The performances from Soomekh and Macfadyen are good, they sell the desperation of their characters really well and they serve their unique purposes within the story the best they can. Tobin Bell is of course back as Jigsaw and despite being in a less active state he is still perfect as the genius, conniving villain who is always 10 steps ahead of everyone else in the room. But the true star of this movie is without a doubt Shawnee Smith as Jigsaw’s recent apprentice Amanda Young who I would say has the most interesting role and journey here. She is a character you both love and love to hate and has a narrative arc that only gets better with repeat viewings.
Speaking of narrative, this is the point in the Saw franchise where things start to get bigger, a lot of narratives are hinted at for future films, and timelines start to get confusing, especially if you know the things that go down in later films. But when isolated from the events of future films the story here truly is a great one, it may seem very straightforward but it has a good amount of surprises that will keep you guessing and will not fail to shock you. Despite containing a number of interesting plots the only real negative I have with the movie is the balancing of these narratives. Early in the film you get a sequence or two with Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) and Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer) where the character Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is introduced and they are definitely interesting scenes that link Saw II to future entries. But within the context of this film’s story it’s out of place and by the end you almost forget the scenes even happened.
So despite the series being led deeper into torture porn territory with Darren Lynn Bousman at the helm this movie is still very engaging, gripping, intense, and harbours a narrative that will hold your attention to the very end. The characters are great and the performances behind them are strong enough to keep you invested in their stories. If excessive amounts of blood and gore doesn’t make you turn and run then continue to check out this franchise because the narrative payoffs are satisfying beyond belief.