Darren Lynn Bousman
Tobin Bell - John Kramer/Jigsaw
Lyriq Bent - Lieutenant Rigg
Costas Mandylor - Detective Hoffman
Scott Patterson - Agent Peter Strahm
Betsy Russell - Jill Tuck
Athena Karkanis - Agent Lindsey Perez
Justin Louis - Art Blank
Donnie Wahlberg - Detective Eric Matthews
Genre - Horror/"Torture Porn"
Running Time - 95 Minutes
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
Some people just haven't learned that all good things must come to an end.
If anyone was asked to list the most memorable horror films of this decade, I have no doubt SAW would be near, if not on top, of the list. The franchise introduced everyone to a new horror icon named Jigsaw, supposedly created a new sub-genre of horror called "torture porn", and has become a Halloween tradition at the box office since 2004. Jigsaw's traps to make his victims see the error of their ways have become spectacles that much of the mainstream has eaten up due to their gory finishes. Plus the twist endings of each installment have been extremely memorable. SAW through SAW III was a great trilogy, with interesting characters and situations - as well as twist and turns that made a lot of sense. SAW III wrapped up the Jigsaw and Amanda story perfectly, tying up loose ends and giving the followers a satisfying end.
Too bad when money talks, bullshit walks.
After SAW III made good in the box office, Lionsgate decided to greenlight three more SAW films. Sure Jigsaw and Amanda were dead and the series finished, but why not milk a good thing for all its worth and extend a story that doesn't need it? Who cares if the story is good or not. Screw the fans! More SAW flicks will make a lot of money for greedy Hollywood executives!!
I remember when SAW IV was about to be released. To say I was excited would be a huge lie. In fact, I thought the idea of another SAW film was silly to me because the first three films already said what they had to say. Another installment was pointless and a cop-out, as SAW III was it for me and ended on a high note. But I'm not gonna lie and say I wasn't curious.
I watched SAW IV last year. I wasn't impressed at all. I just thought it was derivative and a shell of what the first three films were. So a year later, I watched the fourth installment again. This time, knowing what was up, I dug it a bit more. Still, it's the weakest film in the series as of this writing and pretty much that sequel that was made for the love of money instead for the love of the fans that made the franchise what it is today.
John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead. His corpse is on an autopsy table where a coroner removes his brain and cuts Jigsaw right open. Surprisingly, there's a tape inside of Jigsaw's stomach ready to be played. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who is the lead detective on Jigsaw's case, plays the tape that reveals the rest of the film.
We follow multiple storylines. The main plot revolves around Officer Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who's being tested in one of Jigsaw's final games in which he must learn how to get over his obsession to save the people around him, even when saving them could do more harm than good. If Rigg follows Jigsaw's game, he'll be able to save Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Detective Hoffman, who was captured also. Other plot points involve two new officers, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis), who are investigating Detective Kerry's (Dina Meyer) murder and keeping their eye on Rigg. The two cross paths with Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) who happens to be Jigsaw's ex-wife. Through Jill, we learn what really motivated Jigsaw to start his games. More sub-plots appear as well, making this summary and film more complicated than they have any right to be.
SAW IV is a totally unnecessary sequel that really should not have been made. At least it's entertaining and does more things right than it does wrong. But it's really a convoluted mess in its narrative structure and just makes you say "been there, seen that".
The story is really the main flaw for SAW IV. There's just too much going on at once and not all of it really goes together to create a cohesive movie. Let me just say for those who may have been confused about SAW IV that this film is pretty much SAW III - THE UNSEEN FOOTAGE. Everything here takes place during SAW III. A lot of people didn't get that, so I'm just putting it out there.
The main plot with Rigg and his game is obviously the most interesting. The whole "obsession" theme works really well and engages you from beginning to end. For me, it's the only part of the film that feels like a true SAW installment, with the traps and the hints and clues that led to its climatic conclusion. I think it was because we know Rigg from SAW II and SAW III, so we already feel connected to the guy and want to see him succeed in Jigsaw's game - although it's easy to figure out by this point that it'll most likely not happen. Still, I enjoyed the journey of this guy's struggle to do what he feels is right, not realizing that he's just too blind to see the reality in front of him.
I also dug the Jigsaw flashbacks. While I didn't really need to know why he became Jigsaw other than the fact that he had cancer, to learn more about what led to these events are actually quite satisfying. To think he was a kind and selfless man who just had bad shit happen to him pretty much all at once makes him extremely sympathetic. I don't think I would have gone to the lengths he did to prove his point, but we all deal with our anger in different ways.
But everything else for me? Didn't really care for it really. The two new agents introduced aren't all that interesting really and don't add much to the film at all. I kept wondering what was the point of Strahm and Perez to begin with. Perez's exit was decent enough though, but didn't mean much at the end. Plus the whole thing with Jigsaw's lawyer, Eric Matthews, and especially Hoffman was just bland. Okay, I'm glad we finally learn what happened to Matthews, but that info wasn't really needed. Couldn't the fans just speculate what happened to the guy? I guess that would involve too much usage of one's brain. For that, I apologize.
The twist was also very disappointing, since I saw it coming from a mile away. I guess it sort of makes sense in context to the film's narrative, but it just left me numb and wondering why SAW IV was even made. I don't get why the franchise is moving in this direction and why this new apprentice was chosen. The person doesn't fascinate me as a character like Amanda did. I guess SAW V will fill the holes in for me when it comes to this character. It's the least it can do, I guess.
The traps and gore here are okay. Nothing here really excited me. We get an almost scalping, limbs being torn apart in a torture device, head getting squished, knives to the face, and eyes getting popped. I thought it was pretty tame compared to the first three SAW films actually. Still, I liked the ice block trap. That was a pretty cool device. And the hotel dungeon one was pretty cool too. But nothing else really stuck out for me.
The direction by Darren Lynn Bousman was good. I mean, he directed SAW II and SAW III. He knows his way around these films by now. I loved the scene transitions, which were extremely clever. The angles and crazy camera shots were pretty neat. There were some nice jump scares too. I do feel though that the scenes with the death traps weren't directed so well. It actually reminded me of SAW II's direction, but worse. I mean, the shaky cam/jump cuts/wacky edit thing really ruined the momentum for what is probably the main reason why people see these films to begin with. If the story was better, it wouldn't have bothered me as much. But this could have compensated for the weak narrative and it didn't. Still, it looked like a SAW film most of the time.
The acting was pretty good. Tobin Bell is always great to see in these SAW movies and SAW IV is no exception. His voice still works for me and the flashback stuff were the most interesting and best acted portions of the film. He owned every scene he was in when he could have just phoned it in and collected his paycheck. I really identified with Jigsaw. Lyriq Bent was also very good as Rigg. He gets to shine here and looks like a star. Too bad he's in only 40 percent of the film when he should have been the main attraction. Costas Mandylor is okay as Hoffman. He's a decent actor but he doesn't do much here. Scott Patterson, from Gilmore Girls, made me laugh most of the time with his melodramatic acting. I think he was trying to hard. And Betsy Russell was cool as Jill. I liked her arc alot and Russell carried it well.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WONDERING WHY DONNIE WAHLBERG LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THOSE GEICO CAVEMEN
- Jigsaw swallowed a cassette tape before his death to leave a final message. While that is a bit odd, I'm sure it'll be more acceptable than what a coroner will find in Clay Aiken's stomach to see what he last swallowed. No, that ain't glue!
- Some dude's eyes were sewn shut. He should consider himself lucky. He'll never have to watch Paris Hilton's My New BFF ever again.
- Some guy got hammered to death. And now in a Michael Jackson "Let's Have A Sleepover at Neverland Ranch" sort of way either. Allegedly.
- Some trap involved a chick's hair getting pulled until she's scalped. If she were Tyra Banks, she wouldn't have that problem.
- Eric Matthews stood on a melting block of ice while hanging in the air with a chain around his neck. Someone took "Hangin' Tough" a bit too literally.
- Some fat dude, who had a torture dungeon, had to strap himself in his very own contraption and watch the crime he committed in order to deal with his demons. Even though dealing tore him limb from limb, it could have been worse - Richard Simmons could have been yelling at him while Sweatin' To The Oldies.
Now let's do those jumping jacks!! One! Two! Three! Four!
- Don't mess with any strange contraptions. Someone's life may be at stake. Literally.
- Don't ever attack Jigsaw head on. You'll be dealing with barb wire. And not that movie with Pamela Anderson either - although I don't think that option is any better.
THE FINAL HOWL
SAW IV should have never been made. But since it was, at least it's a watchable sequel that tries to create a new trilogy out of an old one. Still, it's flawed and not up to par with the first three SAW flicks. I'm not excited about SAW V but maybe it'll be an improvement over this disappointing installment. Then again, this is Hollywood we're talking about. Even if it sucks, it'll still make money. And isn't that what movies are for?
SAW V or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 this weekend - which one is scarier? I shudder to think.