What might happen if Saw went all "PG-13" and decided to skim a few pages of the Bible? Something like Thr3e might be the result. If you don't believe me, read on.
In the midst of writing his thesis on the struggle of good and evil, seminary student Kevin Parson (Marc Blucas) finds himself targeted by the Riddle Killer, a mad bomber with a penchant for puzzles. He narrowly escapes becoming the psycho's latest victim, piquing the interest of Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell), a police psychologist whose brother was killed in one of the Riddle Killer's explosions. Together, they work to weed out the bomber and stop him for good, but in the meantime, the attacks on Kevin continue growing closer to home. It seems as though the Riddle Killer thinks Kevin has some sins he needs to own up to, and the bombings will only continue until our hero confesses -- or loses his life.
Thr3e isn't a particularly spectacular film, nor is it close to earning a place in the annals of horror history. But it does make for a halfway-interesting watch, mostly due to the sheer curiosity generated by the flick's spirit and background. Essentially, Thr3e takes Jigsaw's motive from the Saw movies (placing morally-shifty individuals in life-or-death situations) but tones down the overall brutality a lot. Instead of incorporating diabolical deathtraps, the Riddle Killer just likes blowing a lot of stuff up (and with the movie rated "PG-13," you see more of people fleeing from explosions rather than perishing in them). This approach is an odd one that generates a fairly suspenseful atmosphere and the occasional tense sequence, especially one in which the police race to deactivate an explosive device strapped to the chest of one of Kevin's classmates.
But since the story never really plays up the religious angle until the very last scene (minus a Biblical reference or two scattered throughout the rest of the flick) and comes across more as an afterthought than an integral part of the film, Thr3e seems all the more like a quickie cash-in on the success of Saw. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying something different by making a horror thriller aimed toward a Christian moviegoing audience, but Thr3e is your basic horror cheapie at the end of the day. The play-it-safe attitude often backfires. It just doesn't quite cut it in striking fear into the audience's collective heart, and the obligatory Big Twist is a serious case of overkill. The acting is also a mixed bag, with a decent turn from Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects) as the antagonistic Slater and a laughably horrendous performance from Priscilla Barnes that rivals any of the howlers delivered in the Wicker Man remake.
For those who shy away from the Saw series and its trademark no-holds-barred attitude toward violence, Thr3e will deliver a similar journey without taking things over the edge. But for more hardcore horror fans, this movie needs a lot more than divine intervention to work as a whole.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by 20thCentury Fox and rated "PG-13" for violence, disturbing images and terror.)