With prices for cinema tickets now reaching ridiculous heights it’s not often I will treat myself to a new release unless it’s something I simply cannot wait for. Instead, I’m happy to content myself with a cheap DVD or a film on TV which may have slipped through my critical net and, believe me, there have been far too many. Whether the films featured here are recent or old I’ll still be providing my honest opinion on them and, with the benefit of hindsight in many cases, may offer a slightly different take to contemporary reviewers.
Saw IV (2007)
Since accepting the challenge of tackling the Saw sequels (well, numbers 2, 3 and 4 in this box set anyway) it feels like I have been on a journey of enlightenment, albeit one with some truly horrific revelations along the way. The original Saw was a master class in suspense and chills, Saw II was an average follow-up, while Saw III is still giving me nightmares and that’s down to how bad it was as opposed to its gory content. With a heavy heart I resumed my journey of enlightenment, putting Saw IV into the DVD player and bracing myself, hopefully, for a very good film. If you haven’t seen the first three Saw films then it’s probably best to stop reading now. If you have please do continue reading, if you dare that is.
Saw IV picks up at the end of the previous film with the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) now dead but during an autopsy of his body a cassette is discovered revealing Jigsaw still has games lined up even though he’s now turned his toes up. Jigsaw’s latest game falls on the shoulders of Lt. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) who is informed he will be tested, but the most significant player is Lt. Rigg (Lyriq Bent) who Hoffman cautions at the start for impulsively bursting through a door to find another of Jigsaw’s victims without taking necessary precautions. Two FBI agents, Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) investigate a crime scene with the body of Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer), killed in Saw III, and come to the conclusion that neither Jigsaw nor his dead apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) had the strength to set the deceased detective in her trap. Jigsaw must have had another accomplice, as yet unaccounted for! While the two FBI agents continue to investigate a string of crime scenes, orchestrated by the late Jigsaw, Lt. Rigg is attacked in his home and wakes to discover he faces a 90 minute test to save the lives of both Detective Hoffman, who has now disappeared, and Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), the long-suffering victim from Saw II. In order to complete the game Lt. Rigg must endure tests that will teach him what it truly means to save a life.
Given quite an array of characters Saw IV jumps around a lot as they each play their part in Jigsaw’s latest game. Strahm and Perez pursue Lt. Rigg and uncover crime scenes he has been present at. Part of Rigg’s test is not to endure torturous ordeals himself but to watch others going through such fates. Each one he encounters is responsible for some atrocity – one is a serial rapist, another is a pimp and the other two an abusive husband and his wife. Saw IV ups the ante with the gore and the brutal games it portrays. At the start of the film we are subjected to two men chained to a winch, one has his eyes sewn shut, the other his mouth, so they are unable to communicate with each other. When the winch begins to draw them together the men inevitably end up fighting one another to death, unable to inform the other that they are friends not foes. The violence does not relent with dismemberments, impaled victims, disfiguring and eyes being gouged out remaining prominent in your mind after the last reels. This is certainly not one to watch when you’re eating but as much as the gore is shocking it just reeks of desperation in trying to engage the audience.
Saw IV’s lack of an enthralling storyline is best demonstrated by the need to tell us the tale of Jigsaw’s life. This is done through Strahm and Perez’s contact with Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) who reveals how their marriage fell apart and the reasons Jigsaw became a fanatical architect of the cruellest of games. This subplot I found more interesting than the main storyline especially when Jigsaw has snared his first victim, a man that dealt one of many blows that changed Jigsaw’s life forever. Though the flashbacks are good they don’t compensate enough for the absence of Jigsaw in the present even though his influence is heavily pronounced from beyond the grave.
I struggled for the first hour with Saw IV but was surprised to find the last half hour was much improved. In a dramatic conclusion the film manages to tie up the fates of Lt. Rigg, Detectives Hoffman and Matthews, and even Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) from Saw III who pops up right at the death (no pun intended!). In the closing scenes we not only have a pretty good twist but also the truth about the rumoured accomplice of the Jigsaw Killer, which clearly paved the way for even more entries in the Saw series. The idea of someone other than Jigsaw being in charge of the gruesome games is unappealing and I can’t imagine Tobin Bell not being in the other films, so I can only assume they’re either prequels of sorts or Jigsaw is reincarnated or possesses Saw’s trademark doll in typical Child’s Play fashion.
A big improvement on Saw III, Saw IV should please Jigsaw’s fans but if you’re hoping for a return to the glory days of the original I’m afraid you won’t find it here. As with the other sequels the emphasis is on pushing gore to the max and even an improved last half hour can’t save Saw IV from being another insult to the vastly superior first film in this worryingly long series.
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