Movie Review: Saw IV

By Matthew Huntley

November 16, 2007

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Now this is too much. If there's ever been a 21st century movie franchise to run out of gas, it's Saw. This cheap (and highly profitable) horror series is beginning to mirror Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street in terms of its stubborness and lame-brained sequels just to make a quick buck. Can't Lionsgate show some pride and stop making them? I realize there's lots of money to be made but how about the studio shows some class instead?

I suppose it's possible for a series to have this many sequels and still be entertaining. Hell, I even thought it was headed in a better direction after Saw III rebounded the series from Saw II. But it's gotten to the point where the franchise's quality is only measured by how well it stands up to its best installment, which is still the original Saw, but even that was no masterpiece.

Whereas the first three pictures at least led us toward a creepy destination, Saw IV doesn't go anywhere. It stumbles along like a chicken with its head cut off and the filmmakers have made it all too obvious this movie was thrown together over the past year just because Saw III opened big.

The plot takes place in and around the time of last film, only now Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) tests a group of detectives and cops from beyond the grave. His goal, once again, is to illustrate how people take their lives for granted and fail to cherish what they have. Somehow, Jigsaw's setups always go according to plan. It's amazing how the people he throws through deadly hoops always look in the right spot for Jigsaw's next set of instructions and booby traps. What would happen, I wonder, if they never played his cryptic little tapes? Or what if they simply stayed put and ignored him?

At the beginning, Jigsaw's body lies naked in the morgue, and a casette tape is perfectly preserved in his stomach. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) plays the tape and we're told "the games have just begun." The "games" are intended for Agent Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who must learn he can't save everyone after Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer) is found hanging with her rib cage open (this event happened at the beginning of Saw III). Now Agent Rigg is more determined than ever to save Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who's still presumed to be alive (you'll recall he was taken at the end of Saw II).


Two more detectives enter the picture - Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis) - who want to get to the bottom of Jigsaw's deadly games. They suspsect Jigsaw needed a strong accomplice to help carry out his tasks. Their primary lead for information is Jigsaw's ex-wife (Betsy Russell), who leads us into a mildly interesting backstory about the bizarre killer.

What's most annoying about Saw IV is that it doesn't even seem to be trying anymore. Not one scene in this movie is tense or scary. How could it be, though, when a Saw movie has come out the past three consecutive years? Even the gore and violence fail to generate a visceral reaction. I sat bored as the movie plodded along and went through its standard motions. There's a scene where a woman is shot in the head and it's treated as nothing overtly shocking (even the detectives simply walk away). No one reacts to anything in this movie the way real people would in the same situations, and I realize it's a horror movie and many fans will say I'm supposed to allow it its implausibilities, but I can only take so much dumbed-down devices.

As usual for the genre, the acting is detestable, the writing weak, and the filmmaking just plain sloppy, especially in regards to the editing. It's so jerky, incoherent and rough that I became all too aware of it. I just stared at the frames passing by as though I was being brainwashed. With the constant camera swishing and repeated frames, the movie is so overstylized it ends up being style-less - although its execution is somewhat unintentionally amusing.

Of whatever story there is, one thing we do learn is the motivation behind Jigsaw's behavior and what drove him to be who he was. It's sort of interesting, I guess, but I've grown impatient at this point. I don't really care about Jigsaw's past because it's really just become a cheap ploy to get us to know more about him. That's usually a good thing, but it's clear the writers just needed something to build a screenplay off of. Are we really going to go into every facet of this man's life by the time this series finally ends? He's not that interesting.

It really just seems practical for the studio to end Saw at this point. There's nowhere left for it to go. With Saw IV, Hostel Part II and The Hills Have Eyes II, horror movies from 2007 have made it so there's no more body parts left to yank out of people's sockets. We've seen everything we're ever going to (or ever should) see.

To everyone reading this review, I've presented you the facts of the case. Let's agree that Saw can die. Let's do it together. Please don't see this movie. Because I really don't feel like reviewing Saw V.



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