In 2004, a low-budget horror film about a man who put people with moral failings into grisly, murderous situations became a huge hit. In 2005, the sequel scored again, upping the body count and the terror. In 2006, the franchise continued, with plenty of gore as well as an emotional story line that delved into the psychological makeup of the main characters. As SAW II concluded, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) was dying. But that doesn't mean his penchant for playing games of torture and violence is ending. In SAW 3, the murders start occurring again, and Kerry (Dina Meyer) is back on the case, although she thinks this time it might be the work of a copycat. She's only partly right: Amanda (Shawnee Smith), the only victim to have survived both movies, has joined Jigsaw as his apprentice, leading the way through a terrifying game involving Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), a doctor in an unhappy marriage, and Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a distraught man who is having trouble getting over the loss of his son (Stefan Georgiou) at the hands of a drunk driver. Amanda has captured Lynn and placed her in a neck brace that is linked to Jigsaw's heart monitor; she must keep Jigsaw alive or else the brace will explode. Meanwhile, Jeff is sent on a dangerous journey on which he faces all the people involved in the light penalty his boy's killer received--and it is up to him whether he will seek vengeance or offer forgiveness. Helmed by SAW II director Darren Lynn Bousman and written by original SAW screenwriter and star Leigh Whannell (with a story by Whannell and SAW director James Wan), SAW 3 is an intricately designed, gruesome thriller with a hard-driving soundtrack featuring songs by Slayer, Helmet, and All that Remains.
The fourth SAW film takes fans into uncharted waters. Now that John/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead, screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (writers of the Project Greenlight-produced FEAST) give us Jigsaw's origin story--finally showing us why he does what he does. Along they way, they still find time to work in the usual dose of elaborate Rube Goldberg-like torture devices and heaps of censor-defying gore in what plays like an extreme version of CSI. During his (extremely graphic) autopsy, Jigsaw's final tape (swallowed in SAW III) is found in his stomach. Promising that his work will continue despite his passing, his message sets off a series of grisly tasks for anxious SWAT team leader Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who is given 90 minutes to rescue detectives Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who are to be dispatched via blocks of ice and high voltage wires. Trailing Rigg are FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson of GILMORE GIRLS) and Perez (Athena Karkanis), who get some unexpected blood on their hands along the way. A series of flashbacks details a pivotal event between Jigsaw and his girlfriend, Jill (1980s beauty Betsy Russell, PRIVATE SCHOOL), which inspired him to devote the remainder of his life to the creation of his signature puzzles.
Darren Lynn Bousman, director of the previous two sequels, returns once again to ensure that the series retains its trademark de-saturated look. Though viewers starting with this instalment may find the brief glimpses of characters from the previous films confusing, fans should be pleased with how the films link together. They are also sure to appreciate that, like FRIDAY THE 13th carrying on sans Jason in PART IV: A NEW BEGINNING, the death of Jigsaw won't keep the franchise from evolving into SAW V and beyond.