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Just when we think we've got the Saw franchise distribution pattern figured out, Lionsgate pulls something like this. Instead of having us wait until the eve of Saw IV in theaters for the unrated release of Saw III, they're giving it to us now. I'm hardly complaining, but one must now wonder what, if any, DVD release will accompany the fourth film in theaters this October. A trilogy set? The rumored three-hour cut of this film? Time will tell.

Saw III: Unrated Edition

Feature


My hat is off to the filmmakers behind the Saw pictures. Director Darren Lynn Bousman and his team have managed to do well with this franchise what others often muck up horribly and that is churn out worthwhile sequels. We're talking story arcs and multi-film character development here, neither of which are especially familiar to this territory. Sure, these films all share common elements and setups (the creepy puppet, the taped message and the grisly traps), but look beyond that and you'll find that the Saw franchise is still far from the predictable and mundane depths most others quickly plummet towards.

To recap, the original Saw introduced audiences to the twisted game of Jigsaw. Saw II then showed us what happened when the horrifyingly brilliant and cunning master took on an apprentice. Saw III now further examines that relationship, specifically how it deteriorates as an ill Jigsaw nears death. Is Amanda ready to carry on his legacy after his passing? Where did that freaky puppet come from? Whatever happened to Detective Eric Matthews? The answers to these questions and more await you in Saw III.

Saw III: Unrated Edition
Throughout the feature, I found myself most intrigued to the game being played out by the character of Jeff. Father to a son killed by drunk driving. He harbors a deep hatred in his heart; unwilling to forgive anyone involved. Rather than being placed in physical danger himself; Jeff finds himself in situations where his enemies are in mortal danger. Will Jeff sit back and watch as those he feels have wronged him die a painful death or will he force himself to forgive them and in turn, save lives? I found this type of inner-struggle far more entertaining and fresh than watching someone try to saw through their leg.

Stylistically, Saw III fits in well with its two predecessors, even though it loses the 'short-attention-span cinematography' of the second film for a more pleasing visual experience. We're still subjected to a few of those nauseatingly over-done 360° trap rotation shots, but on the whole - Saw III looks good. Charlie Clouser returns to score the film, building and intensifying upon the themes he's created for the first two entries while creating new motifs for Jeff and Lynn. As for those crafty traps Jigsaw likes to ensnare people in, they're easily the nastiest of the series. Gore fans should be more than pleased.

Saw III: Unrated Edition
Is the Saw franchise re-inventing the horror genre as we know it? No. Are these films masterpieces of horror? Hell no. Are they loud and shiny pieces of entertainment? Absolutely and with that in mind, I recommend Saw III as gory fun. I've only seen the film once before this and that was theatrically, so I wasn't able to pick out an awful lot of the "unrated" material. Matter of fact, I didn't spot any new material - but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. It's likely just an extra shot of splatter here and another scream there - nothing big.

Video


This unrated version of Saw III is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I'm assuming this is as good as the film can possibly look given the washed out visual style of the series. I did find grain in the image, but it could easily be intentional as again, these are gritty looking pictures to start with. When a feature incorporates a tarnished-looking image quality into it's visual style, there's not much one can critique in this department.

Saw III: Unrated Edition

Audio


The film comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. I went with the 5.1 track and almost wished I hadn't; the only thing more disgusting than watching victims undergo Jigsaw's traps in Saw III is hearing them do it. I'd give my compliments to the sound department, but half-way through the film I felt as though I could easily lose my lunch. Unappetizing sound effects aside, this is a well-engineered track that lets score and dialogue share center stage.

Extras


The disc comes with three audio commentaries to accompany the feature. The first has Director Darren Lynn Bousman, Writer Leigh Whannell and Executive Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. The second commentary features Producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg. The final commentary features Director Darren Lyn Bousman again along with Editor Kevin Greutert and Director of Photography David Armstrong. Post-production has always been the most fascinating side of film for me, so I sat in on the third commentary. The trio explains what was cut and why, what they had originally intended to shoot but didn't and offer up a slew of production stories. A good listen, indeed.

Saw III: Unrated Edition
After the commentaries, we have 'The Traps of Saw III, a nine minute featurette that covers much of the ground you'd expect it to. The next aptly titled featurette is 'The Props of Saw III' which runs eight minutes. 'Darren's Diary' is a nine minute look at the trials and tribulations that arise during a strenuous film shoot such as this one. These are all well-made and insightful supplements filled with gobs of fun on-set video. Closing out the disc we have five minutes of deleted scenes, including a Lynn/Amanda fight scene (which was appropriately cut out of the final product), theatrical and teaser trailers plus a whole slew of other trailers for Lionsgate films.

Overall


Again, I'm going to recommend Saw III to anyone who enjoys a fun horror film experience. If you liked Saw but were turned off by Saw II, I'd urge you to give this one a try; it really is a completely different film. The disc is satisfying from a technical standpoint and has more than enough supplements to give you an insight into it's production. Bravo, Lionsgate. Bring on Saw IV.


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