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Soundtrack review: Saw III (Charlie Clouser – 2006)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Saw III (Charlie Clouser – 2006)


I know some of you will scoff if I associate the words “story” and “Saw” in the same sentence, but “Saw III” actually has one and it’s my favorite movie from the franchise. The story follows Jeff Denlon, a man who, after his son is killed in a hit-and-run, is put through a series of tests by Jigsaw in order to try and let go of his vengeance for the man that killed his son. Meanwhile, a bed-ridden John Kramer has his apprentice Amanda Young kidnap Jeff’s wife, Lynn, who is tasked with keeping him alive for one final test before he dies. There’s a lot of flashbacks and fewer torture scenes than in the other movies. Charlie Clouse and his magnificent theme were back, of course.

The sound of the “Saw” movies doesn’t really change for the duration of the franchise, but it evolves. When a composer has so much time, 7 years, to work on the same series he can develop his themes and the fabric of his scores without breaking the flow. The musical identity of “Saw” is clear and impressive. The industrial violence so right for the usual setting of the movies in abandoned and rusty buildings is more in your face here. “In chains” makes a statement and tells the listener what he’s in for.

But like I said, “Saw III” is somewhat more emotional than your usual “Saw” movie. So we get beautiful deeper, more atmospheric cues such as “Divorce”. The alternance between violence and emotion works as well in the music as it does, for me, in the movie. I never get tired of this sound because it’s so honest and brutal and because sometimes the film music listener needs a release like this. And every now and then there’s the broken piano echo of the main theme which reminds us where we are.

“Saw III” could very well count as an ambient music album. Sure, the ambient isn’t always the most comfortable one or one you’d actually like to be in but trust me, you will find enough dreamy piano moments which you didn’t suspect where hiding in this abandoned building. “Surprised” is a quieter and more slowed down rendition of the main theme and it’s the heard of this score. Most of the album plays on the emotions rather than violence and it works like the balm for those brutal moments.

Fans of Charlie Clouser will probably have this one on top of their lists. For me this score is one of the highest points of his career and a testimony of why I love his music (and the film music of all former Nine Inch Nails members) so much. I am forever addicted to its darkness.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 40 / 69

Album excellence: 58%


In Chains

Rib Caged



Tin Box


Some Thing

Pig Juicer



Hello Tim

The Rack

Lynn Talks

Your test

Fix Me

Final Test



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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