Ever get the sneaky suspicion that someone does something with less than admirable intentions? That’s what I felt when I sat down to watch and review Saw IV. After all, since the original Saw was released in 2004, Lionsgate has bankrolled sequels every year, each film still remarkably making a healthy profit while getting progressively worse.
Saw IV continues along this downward spiral. Instead of dressing the film with a complex, intriguing plot (like the original), the goal now is to purely shock, awe and disgust the viewer. The aim is to drive the whole “torture-porn” genre into the ground by ratcheting up the methods of torture and bloodletting to dizzying new heights. How did I come to this conclusion? Easy, the first five minutes of the film covers the autopsy of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) himself, and in my book nothing spells gross-out like watching the methodical removal of a mans brain and organs. And it is from this cold, metal necropsy table that Jigsaw starts a new game with old favorites and a few new players.
This time he focuses his energy on officer Rigg (Lyriq Bent), the lone officer that had yet to feel the wrath of the taskmaster. Knowing that his weakness is that he tries to save everyone, even at his own expense, Jigsaw sets him on a path that forces Rigg to make decisions he is not comfortable with. He wants Rigg to “see what he sees” and to “feel what he feels”, in an ultimate play to have Rigg become his understudy. So while Rigg sets off on his own twisted, nonsensical game, FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) try to piece together the puzzle and save Rigg from becoming a casualty too. Their path leads them directly to John’s (Jigsaw’s birth name) ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell).
It is here where most of the story of Saw IV went off course for me. Instead of taking the franchise forward, writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan take us back to the start of John’s psychological splintering. We learn through numerous disjointed flashbacks the how and the why – but I found I didn’t care. I don’t want to know the calculating serial killer suffered a devastating loss, lived through a traumatic experience or that he was beaten down as a child (one of my reasons for disliking the Halloween remake). These villains are not meant to be humanized; we go to these movies to watch them kill in ever more ghastly ways, not to care about them.
I was also perplexed at the level of stupidity displayed by our so-called heroes. For the deadly game to play out, they have to behave in bizarre ways that are contrary to what they all would have learned from years on the job or at a minimum what they were taught in the police academy. Rushing into rooms that are suspected to be booby-trapped or not calling in for backup prior to heading out to a location are just a few of the numbskull moves these people do. No wonder there are so many unsolved murders in the country! If at any time these professionally trained officers acted as they were supposed to, Jigsaw’s game would have been over as soon as it started.
Aside from these glaring nuisances, Saw IV is a success at what it sets out to do – putting people into extremely horrid situations and watching them die in horrible, yet inventive ways. If you didn’t get your blood fix from Hostel: Part II earlier in the year, then you’re sure to get it here. Next year, which shouldn’t be a surprise, you’ll be able to get your fix from Saw V, which is in pre-production now. I wouldn’t doubt if a Hostel: Part III isn’t lurking around the corner either.