I wanted to like THR3E. I have not read the 400-plus page novel by Ted Dekker upon which this film is based, so my only point of reference are other genre films of which THR3E appears to be a pastiche to my jaded eyes, namely THE SIXTH SENSE, SAW, PSYCHO, RANSOM, FIGHT CLUB and HIGH TENSION to name a few. Spoilers abound henceforth, so do not read further if you wish to see this film.
Inexplicably filmed anamorphically in Lodz, Poland (this fact is never pointed out because everyone speaks perfect English), THR3E begins as a frantic woman is trying desperately to solve a riddle posed to her by a Jigsaw-like voice taunting her on her cell phone. She�s informed that her brother�s life is in danger, and she�s being given a chance to save his life. She must look up a passage in a novel that she has written to understand the clue to saving him. She races to a hot dog stand and asks the vendor for a copy of her book which has been placed there by the man who�s testing her. The clue leads her to her brother who is duct taped to his car seat � if she opens the correct door, she�ll save him. If she opens the wrong door, the car explodes. Guess which one she opens?
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The story then switches to Kevin Parson, a young seminary student who receives a similar cell phone call from the same kook while he�s driving. The man on the other end identifies himself as Slater, and tells Kevin that he has precisely three minutes to confess his sin to the world or his car will explode. What that sin is, Kevin has no idea, and he quickly exits his car before it explodes. Getting home, Kevin then notices that one of his books has been fitted with a cell phone and Slater calls him to tell him that his family�s dog is now targeted. Kevin races to his childhood home to see his crackpot family that still lives amidst stacks of decade-old newspapers and magazines in an effort to live in the past. His lunatic mother, his retarded brother (who keeps telling him that he wants to show him his computer), and his crazy uncle all look like a poor man�s supporting cast from David Lynch�s mind. After seeing that his dog is safe, he lovingly puts him in the doghouse which suddenly explodes, turning him into puppy chow. His mother yells at him, telling him that he did this, and Kevin cowers in shame. Clearly, this means something!
The rest of the movie is then pretty much a cat and mouse game between Kevin and Slater, and it is revealed that when Kevin was a teenager he liked a girl named Samantha Sheer, who was spied upon by Slater. Slater of course had beaten up on the frail Kevin, but Kevin outsmarted him and locked him in an abandoned building, leaving him to die.
Jennifer Peters then comes into the picture again � she�s the woman whose brother died in the car explosion at the beginning. She is now an FBI agent who is determined to apprehend Slater. The adult Samantha Sheer is then introduced to us, and it�s obvious that she and Kevin have been friends since their puppy love days. One by one, Kevin�s current friends are all targeted by Slater, who keeps repeating that Slater must pay for what he did to him. There are strange flashbacks to Kevin�s childhood involving his mother putting duct tape over his mother and forcing him into the shower, all the while yelling at him. This is one of many clues that the audience is given along the way. As the conclusion approaches (which seemed to take twice as long as it actually did), it becomes apparent that Slater and Samantha Sheer are parts of Kevin�s split personalities, and that Kevin is responsible for all the killings and attempted bombings. This ending, which many years ago would have been considered ingenious and shocking, now comes off as contrived and tired. When the denouement arrives, it is all cleanly explained to us, and I couldn�t help but feel that the filmmakers were trying to get so many of the novel�s details crammed into the film, which was co-written by the author of the novel.
The movie lacks any shred of suspense as the audience is pummeled with an inordinate amount of details and clues to this massive puzzle and by the time the solution comes around, I was too tired to care. The whole notion of everything revolving around the number three was dizzying. What is essentially a good-sounding story comes across more like a movie-of-the-week, which is a real shame considering the source material.
One thing is certain: I now want to read the highly-praised novel.