Saw III (2006)

(Netflix Streaming, June 2015)  How fitting that one of the thematic threads in Saw III be the tension between sadism and redemption.  In the universe of the film, we get an argument between the lead villain (who does allow for extreme redemption) and his apprentice (who would rather kill in gruesome ways), which finds an echo in the tribulations of a putative protagonist offered the chance to take revenge upon the killer of his son and the enablers that let him walk free.  But in a wider context, redemption and forgiveness make for lousy horror franchises: The Saw series is built upon grimy traps, gruesome deaths, gross-outs and twisted revenge.  While I would personally like the series to err more frequently on the side of the compassion it professes to embrace, we know that this wouldn’t sustain a fan base big enough to allow for seven installments.  Part of the proof is in the way Saw III casually kills its recurring characters, forbids the rescue of its imperilled victims (all the way to a hilariously contrived shotgun blast) and embraces humanity’s infuriating penchant for self-harm.  Having seen bits and pieces of the next two films in the series a while ago, I found myself intrigued by the appearance of various plot hooks (and throwaway characters) used by latter installments in the series, and a bit captivated by the decaying atmosphere of the film and its dynamic direction.  I’m not as amused by the gore, the meanness or the nihilism of the series’ attitude, but then again I’m not really part of the horror audience courted by the series.  And while I’m curious about the three other installments in the series that I haven’t yet seen, I have a feeling that waiting a while between films is the best approach.

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