It's Halloween again, time for another installment of When Really Bad and Disgusting Things Happen to Mildly Irritating People, better known as the Saw series. This year's model is better than Saw II, but that's not saying much. Like terminally ill psychopath Jigsaw's fiendish contraptions: Some hurt less than others, but none are much fun.

Here, as Jigsaw draws closer to death, his protégé (original Saw survivor Amanda) appears to be of an even more malicious bent. And this time around, a kidnapped doctor must keep the villain alive while he watches one final victim run through his deadly maze.

The torture, as always, is what's selling the tickets—and it shows. Saw III's production values are miles ahead of the minibudgeted original, but it only comes through here and there. Deathtraps get sumptuous tableaux and fetishistic music-video detail, while simple exposition scenes look cheap.

But as gory as this film is, the story is even messier. Saw III devotes an inordinate amount of time to filling in gaps from previous entries, leaving you ample time to wonder: If all these flashbacks are necessary to understanding the previous two films, why did we bother watching them in the first place?

The plot is as convoluted as Jigsaw's Rube-Goldberg-by-way-of-de-Sade contraptions—and just as rigged. Ostensibly crucial information is withheld from the audience for no other reason than to provide a "Gotcha!" at the end.

Saw III, like Jigsaw's traps, is needlessly, superfluously cruel, an intricate puzzlebox that once solved is revealed to have been empty all along. The only way to win his games is not to play.

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