Movie Review: Saw VI
By Matthew Huntley
November 4, 2009
Saw VI reaffirms the notion it's the even-numbered installments of this stubborn horror series that make it nearly unwatchable. The odd-numbered ones range from decent to OK, but Saw VI makes you feel like you're wasting your time, and that's sometimes worse than being regular bad. Watching this movie, you pretty much slouch down and fail to respond to anything.
Not that any of the Saw movies are terribly innovative to begin with (least of all the sequels), but this latest one merely goes through the motions of its predecessors. Even its flashiness and gore are minimally effective, no matter how brutal the imagery.
Once again, the movie follows another moral sinner who once revealed his harshness and cruelty to John Kramer, a.k.a. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the infamous serial killer (or is he just a serial tester — I don't think Jigsaw has actually killed anyone). If you're a faithful watcher of the franchise, you know anyone who makes Jigsaw's hit list will eventually be put through a series of obstacles to test his or her tolerance of pain and torture.
How timely that Jigsaw's latest victim is a health insurance agent (Peter Outerbridge) who refused medical coverage to Kramer. When the two first meet, Kramer tells him, "So I guess you get to decide who lives and who dies." The movie's flagrant attack on private insurance companies might have been more effective had the filmmakers actually known what they were talking about or tried to suggest solutions to the problem. But no, they dumb it down to the simple notion that the private insurance man is evil and use it as a device for more sensational violence.
After the insurance agent is kidnapped (and held in yet another grisly maze of dark hallways), he must complete four tests to save himself and his colleagues. If you're a fan of carnage, then you're in luck — the movie has plenty of it. As in previous Saw pictures, we see people sever their own flesh and appendages; ribs cages crushed in between vices; screws dig into skulls and hands; shotguns blast through chest cavities; and hydrofluoric acid split a man in half, after which his guts spill out.
The problem is none of this is new, and the filmmakers underestimate the audience by thinking this is all we came to see. To me, these images are boring. I've sat through five Saw movies, among other gruesome horror film, so I've become desensitized to this type of shock. The images have no lasting impact and all the scenes that have people racing against time (which is almost all of them) are not suspenseful in the least. Why? Because we know how they're going to turn out or we just don't care about the people involved.
Also, it seems like the same subplot happens in every Saw movie (maybe that's why every sequel seems to use the same flashbacks). Jigsaw's wife (Betsy Russell) is helping to carry out her late husband's final wishes with the dirty detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). I'd have to revisit the entire series to figure out what Hoffman's motivation is (maybe he's just bored), but it's unclear why he's going to such lengths and concocting such elaborate setups (and I mean elaborate — he must hire a special effects artist) just to teach people a lesson.
Bottom line: Saw VI is a waste of resources. It seems Lionsgate only wants to keep the series going because it's cheap, fast and they feel they have a monopoly on the weekend box office before Halloween. But now it's just pathetic and embarrassing. More than ever, the acting is on the B-level, the editing is epileptic and there's no unique style to hold our attention. It's all the same as before. You can just hear the "Direct-to-DVD" shelf calling this series' name.
What's annoying is the way the franchise keeps teasing me. I was a fan of the first Saw, mildly enjoyed Saw III, and thought Saw V was the best one since the original. But it's the ones in between that make me want to hate it. Saw VII is rumored to be the final chapter, and if that really is the case, at least it's an odd number, which hopefully means it will end the series on a high note.