Saw III - Unrated Director's Cut (2006)

Darren Lynn Bousman

Tobin Bell - John Kramer/Jigsaw
Shawnee Smith - Amanda Young
Bahar Soomekh - Dr. Lynn Denlon
Angus Macfadyen - Jeff Reinhart
Dina Meyer - Detective Allison Kerry
Donnie Wahlberg - Eric Matthews
Lyriq Bent - Lieutenant Rigg
Costas Mandylor - Detective D. Hoffman

Genre - Horror/"Torture Porn"

Running Time - 121 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

Every Halloween since 2004, we've gotten a SAW film each and every year. The excitement for this franchise varies depending on who you are. But even if you aren't anticipating another SAW sequel, you're still curious on how it'll turn out. With SAW V coming out in two weeks, I will be there watching even though I still feel it's an unnecessary flick.

Now if you've been a longtime reader of my reviews, you know whenever a big horror franchise releases an installment [whether it's a sequel or a remake], I begin to review the films leading up to it. Last October, I reviewed the excellent SAW and the good sequel SAW II. I had watched the Unrated Director's Cut of SAW III, ready to review it right after SAW II. But something happened. It seems Jigsaw came out of the film and put me in one of his traps. And this trap was a case of being burnt out. I didn't want to review another SAW film. I was bored. I think my readers were bored. I just wasn't feeling it.

But a year has passed and I must continue with this mission to complete a review I started a year ago before another SAW installment is complete. I'm the kind of guy who likes completing something, even if it means sacrificing something for it. It's just how I live. And looking at my blogspot and seeing only two SAW films reviewed there annoys me somewhat.

So here is the long awaited review for SAW III - Unrated Director's Cut. It's 20 minutes longer than the theater version and a much better film as well. Not to say that SAW III was a horrible film when it was released. But the Unrated Director's Cut really improves the film and reveals a vision Darren Lynn Bousman wanted the SAW fans to see instead of what was released into theaters due to the MPAA. If there's any version of SAW III to watch before SAW V comes out, this is the one.

PLOT (contains spoilers)
At the end of SAW II, Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) was trapped and locked inside that familiar bathroom by Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who revealed herself as Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) apprentice and would be carrying on his legacy after he dies. While Matthew suffers, familiar characters from the first two films begin to die horrible deaths due to various traps.

As the killing spree continues, Jigsaw is in really bad shape. Amanda, desperate to save her mentor and father figure, kidnaps Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) to save him. Lynn is a perfect choice since she's very lethargic in her personal and professional life, as she can't stand her job and is married to a man she's grown tired of. Jigsaw makes her a life-or-death deal if she helps him, making Lynn agree relunctantly.

While this goes on, some distraught guy named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) is dealing with his own trap. Grieving over the death of his child due to a reckless driver, Jigsaw grants Jeff the opportunity to get revenge on those who were responsible for getting the murderer off during his trial.

As time closes in on Jigsaw, the link between all these events unravel - tying up loose ends and ending Jigsaw's story. Or at least it should have...

is the best SAW sequel for one reason - it keeps it simple. Instead of dealing with multiple characters that sacrificed any kind of character development like SAW II, SAW III is more in line with the original. While it does have sub-plots, they're not in the film just to shock audiences. They all connect at the end and actually make sense as to why. Plus we have fewer characters here, leading to a much more intimate setting where we can connect to all the players involved. For a third installment in a horror franchise, SAW III is surprisingly strong.

Now if you've seen a SAW film, you pretty much seen them all. So you know the story is gonna have twists, turns, and a ton of gore to accompany them. But at least SAW III does it very well. Especially the Unrated Director's Cut, which expands characterization and backstories for these characters and ties up the loose ends as believably as this franchise can do. We also get a deeper look at the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda, knowing more about the two really look at each other. Jigsaw is the calm, cancer-stricken villain who does these evil things to prove a moral standpoint. Amanda, on the other hand, doesn't seem to grasp at this - instead using the traps to torture her victims as a way to get back at innocent people for the way she was tortured herself with suicidal tendencies and drug abuse. With these two extremes, we see how much Jigsaw is trying to mentor her in his vision while she struggles with her own demons. And when Jigsaw gets extremely ill, we kind of see that Amanda really isn't a fitting apprentice to take on the Jigsaw title as her vindictive streak comes out. They balance each other out. What I like about the first three SAW films is that the villains aren't these caricatures of what we expect evil to be like. They aren't hiding under masks or cracking jokes every other minute. They have depth. They have substance. And while we know what they're doing is wrong, we still understand why these things are being done.

And SAW III is also helped by the fact that the protagonists are also developed and deep. Maybe not as quite as the villains, but we also understand where they're coming from. From Dr. Lynn's dour nature [to which Jigsaw wants her to appreciate her job and her family before she ends up as one of his victims] to devastated Jeff's situation [to get over his child's death by going down the right path - can moral values be even comprehended during such a traumatic situation?], we know enough about these people to want them to make the right decision. Leigh Whannell, who co-wrote the first three films and stars in both the original SAW and in this installment, does a nice job giving the spotlight to all the major characters instead of just focusing on Jigsaw and Amanda. It's interesting to look at both sides of the playing field. That "grey" area is always more interesting than "black and white".

But most people who watch SAW films don't really look deep into the story. They want to see the vicious traps and the gore that accompanies it. I remember the theater version to be very gory, but the Unrated Director's Cut adds alot more. We get more skin-tearing, a better shot of someone's open torso, extended shots of guts splattering and someone dying in ice, and probably the grossest one of them all - a longer sequence of the infamous brain surgery scene that makes me cringe even as I type this. Some people call it unnecessary. They're probably right. But damn if it isn't effective.

The Unrated Director's Cut also adds 20 minutes of footage. We get a better look at Amanda's progression as Jigsaw's apprentice and how she started off on a very bad foot. We also get a vicious catfight scene between Lynn and Amanda. And the ending is a bit different and definitely longer, especially concerning the final tape. Are these things needed? Probably not. But it's nice to see what the film could have been and some of these scenes do add on to the film. So I'm not complaining.

Darren Lynn Bousman directs a much better film than he did with SAW II. The quick edits are kept to a minimum [thank God] and the film had a lot of dread going for it. A very moody and darkly atmospheric affair where we never get the sense there's a light at the end of the tunnel. He also focuses on the drama at hand, which was an improvement on the second SAW as well. He lets the acting and the situations do the work for him instead of being fancy with camera work. He definitely shows here that he has a grasp on the material and knows how to visualize it. I liked the direction alot here because it was a lot more subtle.

The acting was never an issue with these SAW films. It's usually always good or better. Tobin Bell can play John Kramer in his sleep by now, yet he doesn't coast on his Jigsaw character at all. He shows range and is always effective in the role because he gives the character more depth than what the script probably provides. Shawnee Smith is magnetic as Amanda, who will always be my favorite character in this franchise. This is her most visible and dramatic portion in the series and works it like a champ. You want to hate her but you just can't because you pity her. Smith could have played the character as an annoying nut, but she gives her substance instead. Angus Macfadyen as Jeff sold me. I really felt bad for his character and bought his mourning father act. I'm not sure what I would have done in his situation. I hope I never get to find out. Bahar Soomekh was good but was always outshone by Bell and Smith. Still, she gave a nice performance. Dina Meyer did very well as Detective Kerry in her final SAW film. She was FINALLY given some depth and more emotional scenes. Too bad they gave her character the exit. What luck!

SAW III is one of the better sequels in horror cinema history. This is especially true when watching the Unrated Director's Cut, which is really the only version of the film you need. The film is clever, written strongly and with substance, has sick traps and gorish scenes, and tied up loose ends nicely. You're gonna need to watch SAW and SAW II to understand this film if you're new to the series, but what else were you planning to do around Halloween time but watch horror films? To be honest, the franchise should have ended here because SAW III is a great way to out. Unfortunately, we got SAW IV anyway and that's a different review for a different time. Let's just say that it won't be as positive as this one.


  1. As always, Excellent Review Fred!

    I agree that Saw III is the best of the sequels, and I too will be there for Saw V - though I am with you on is it really necessary?!?

    Also, I laughed out loud on your slam of The Happening - I too would totally understand that one! :-)

  2. I'm one of the few horror fans who hates the Saw series (and yes I've seen all 4 for some unknown reason)

    I thought the first one lacked suspense (the traps were told in flashbacks), the 2nd one had a dumb twist and the 3rd had some decent traps.

    I just hate its all about that jigsaw philosophy of embrace life. Why can't he just be nuts?


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