A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Saw III isn't for kids, though plenty of gore-loving teens will probably want to see this horror sequel. Like its predecessors, it follows a series of characters trapped in terrible, torturous situations. Characters meet gruesome, bloody ends: suffocation, freezing, being shot through the neck, being pulled apart while attached to hooks and chains, neck and limbs being twisted and broken, and even a head exploding. One character performs graphic brain surgery, and another -- who's emotionally tormented -- cuts her own thigh. Repeated references to a 6-year-old boy who was hit and killed by a drunk driver. A woman appears getting out of bed (post-sex) with a man; another is shown hanging by her arms, completely naked (full frontal). A doctor pops anti-depressants and appears dazed while working on a little boy in the ER. Profanity includes 35+ uses of "f--k."
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What's the story?
The insidious, ever-vengeful John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) returns for more blood and gore in SAW III. John's still up to his same old tricks-- selecting "subjects" who need to be morally reeducated and putting them in situations in which they must sacrifice some precious idea or body part in order to escape. This time, John/Jigsaw is bedridden with his cancerous brain tumor, so his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) goes forth to bring a primary victim to his video-monitored warehouse. Amanda reels in Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a man haunted by the death of his young son. Jeff must decide the fates of three other victims, all tied to his son's tragic death. He's forced to weigh his long-professed desire for revenge against the urge to do the "right" thing by forgiving those he blames for his pain. Meanwhile, Amanda's other snare, drug-addicted brain surgeon Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), is locked in a collar that will blow her head off if she doesn't operate on Jigsaw John. Lynn makes a series of decisions that John admires and says he wants to reward. But despite his assurances, Lynn isn't in control of her own fate. She's only part of a larger scheme -- which is how you might be feeling by the end of this third installment.
Is it any good?
This brutal sequel offers more of the torture and suffering audiences have come to expect from the bloody series. Though Saw III's script is slightly more sophisticated than either of its predecessors -- Saw and Saw II -- its concept is the same. Darren Lynn Bousman's film is bursting with graphic, sometimes stomach-turning images of gore and suffering. But it also threads through a series of plot twists that pay off -- sometimes cleverly, usually predictably.
The judgmental/instructional killer was introduced in the very low-budget Saw, in which Jigsaw's victims were locked in a basement for 90 minutes, the limits of space and time showing the ingenuity of young Australian filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Wannell. Since then, the murderous schemes and devices have been elaborated upon, and Jigsaw granted more history (this time he even gets a lost love, sunny and blond). For fans of the franchise, the expansion is both good (more of the same) and bad (obscuring the initial, strangely elegant simplicity).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about John/Jigsaw's seeming "lesson" -- that revenge doesn't stop pain or guilt, but only prolongs it. How does Jigsaw judge his victims in order to rationalize his cruelty? How can you apply his lesson to other, less sensationally violent situations? What are other options besides "getting even" with someone who wronged you?
How do you see Amanda's devotion to John? Is it possible for her to "love" him? How does her inability to learn John's "lesson" mark her inability to forgive or love anyone?
- In theaters: October 27, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2007
- Cast: Angus Macfadyen, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell
- Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language.
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