Do you want to play a game? How about a really long, convoluted game that leads nowhere? The scariest thing about "Saw III" is how it seems...

Share story

Do you want to play a game? How about a really long, convoluted game that leads nowhere? The scariest thing about “Saw III” is how it seems like it’s never going to end.

The third installment in the horror franchise delivers a different kind of torture than its predecessors. While the first two chapters were resourceful genre films with some memorable images and interesting twists, the new movie is just a hodgepodge of gruesome moments and a weird love story that’s even more cringe-inducing than the death scenes.

This is the first episode of “Saw” not screened in advance for reviews. The studio was smart to smuggle the film into theaters. It would have been smarter, however, for them to hold off until a more coherent script came along, regardless of Halloween timing. Horror films are popular year-round.

Director Darren Lynn Bousman (“Saw II”) and screenwriter Leigh Whannell seem to have lost sight of the quality that made the franchise unique. There was more to it than gimmicky gore. It had a certain complexity depicting a villain who believes he’s helping those he preys upon, setting deathtraps that force them to confront their problems. The killer targets people who are already self-destructing, accelerating the process for them. That concept is lost amid the new film’s messy storytelling.

Trap-master Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) returns to terrorize, and maybe enlighten, new victims with his apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), an ex-junkie who survived his games and considers him a savior. He needs an assistant since he’s bedridden, dying of cancer. At the end of the last film, it seemed like he was gone and Amanda was taking over, an idea with a lot of promise. But instead of moving forward, following a female serial killer, the movie regresses back to the original villain.

This time out, the story centers on two abductees. Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) is a family man who’s been consumed with anger since his son was killed by a drunken driver. Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) is a brain surgeon recruited to treat the ailing Jigsaw or die horribly. Her main character flaw seems to be her use of antidepressants (the movie basically suggests that all people on psychopharmacological medication are addicts).

Over the course of the film, the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda grows strained. She develops a strangely romantic attachment to him and gets jealous watching him around Lynn. But she should know that he isn’t sentimental and his actions have a tactical purpose.

As a sequel, “Saw III” is a disappointment and as a stand-alone story, it doesn’t hold together. While the first two films had their flaws, each featured a shocker ending that compensated for the inconsistencies. Here, the closing scene fails to generate a sense of surprise and connect the fragmented storylines.