While making the third film, the minds behind Saw were aware of Saw IV waiting on the horizon. This time they gave themselves options and backdoors with in the film to play with in the follow-up. A good idea considering that in Saw III they killed all the bad guys. And just like everyone has been telling you – Jigsaw really is dead. No tricks. In fact, just to drive it home, the film opens with his unnecessarily detailed autopsy, very reminiscent of the nerve-racking brain surgery scene in the third film.
In following the formula, Saw IV is indeed convoluted with connections to the past including an extended look into who Jigsaw was before he became a killer, and what it was that drove him over the edge. This portion of the movie plays like Jigsaw Beginnings, and I’d complain about weak flashbacks if it wasn’t the first time in the franchise we’ve had a chance to see the actor that plays Jigsaw, Tobin Bell, do any acting beyond a strong whisper. He’s good and he carries these scenes well enough that you start praying for an evil twin to carry on his work.
No such luck. No evil twin to save the day, just a mysterious figure out there that is doing Jigsaw’s bidding from beyond the grave and continuing his masterful game. This becomes the big mystery of the movie as we follow two sets of characters trying to solve it.
The first is Lyriq Bent who plays idealistic police sergeant Riggs, a man obsessed with saving everybody before he gets captured and thrust into the game. Bent had a brief part in the third film and does well here as we follow him on a series of tasks confronting trapped people from his past (ala SAW III – the formula evolves!). This was pretty good stuff even if the traps this time around were less fierce than I expected. They were as clever and intricate as they’ve ever been, just not as chilling. I can’t decide if I spoiled myself too much this time around by watching two of the trap sequences online and at Comic Con. I feel like I may have desensitized myself to their full effect on the big screen, but for the most part I was unimpressed and not really scared. And I get scared easily. Seriously easily. Like “Puppets from Labyrinth easily. And by Labyrinth I mean Fraggle Rock.
The second path we follow is that of two FBI agents used to connect the missing Riggs storyline and the flashbacks courtesy of the interrogation of Jigsaw’s ex-wife ( Betsy Russell). I liked the addition of the investigation, something part III left out, but that was very present in parts I and II. I think two groups racing against the clock works pretty well, but it felt very disconnected here even with Scott Patterson from the Gilmore Girls leading the charge.
I can forgive part IV for its less than impressive characters, because now that I know the formula, I realize that this is just a bridge. It doesn’t matter that these characters are boring or insignificant, because this is just a little break in the road that gives us the material we need as an audience so they can hit us with something big next time around. And it’s not like they even hold back here. That secret figure that’s carrying out Jigsaw’s game - they reveal who that is. To Saw fans I can imagine this was an insignificant reveal because they don’t really bother to explain why. It made for the weakest ending of the bunch so far, which is unfortunate because a clever twist is the one thing that saved part II from missing the mark completely.
I can accept Saw IV as a bridge setting up something special, but there are good ways to do this and bad ways to do this. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for example is a bridge movie. A lot of really wonderful, entertaining stuff happens in that film where people die and people grow up and Harry comes into his own, but really it’s just the wind up for the home run in part 6. A movie like that, or even like Empire, is a brilliant example of how intensely entertaining these in-between movies can be. The gang at Saw seem content in looking towards the future. It worked though. They got our money and they’ll probably get it next year too.
Rating: 6 out of 10 - As Saw falls into a Star Trek like pattern of “one good movie, one bad movie” I find myself wondering if the year turn around on these films that get released every Halloween is stifling them. On the DVD commentary for part III director Darren Lynn Bousman expressed how intensely involved it is to produce them so quickly. I get the impression here that they had a great idea long term that needed some proper set-up, and that their goals were focused too much on what might happen in 2008 instead of what should happen in 2007. I could be completely wrong but for the sake of the franchise I hope it’s true. I really hope there’s something waiting for us next year that will make the franchise interesting again. Otherwise I won’t care what characters are connected in the larger story of the world of Saw. Because I won’t be.
Doubtful, but I’m sure I’ll be itching to see it again next October, if only to refresh myself for the fifth movie. The thing is, you can never tell what I’ll do if they release a special edition DVD set with a free movie ticket for that sequel inside. I’m such a sucker for a good deal, even if I can’t remember how disgustingly disappointing the ending of the movie I‘m buying is.
If I do end up buying Saw IV then I’m an idiot because, free ticket or not, if the fifth movie improves upon the messy ending of IV even in the slightest, then it would’ve been worth the 10 bucks anyway.
Looking for stuff on the web for Saw IV wasn’t what you would call difficult. A simple search at Youtube will yield hours of entertaining footage ranging from spoiler clips of Jigsaw’s autopsy to the obsessive teenage ramblings of this dude. But the most impressive thing I found online for the most popular “torture porn” franchise of our time is an event set up to help victims of violence. I’m talking about the 4th Annual Saw IV Blood Drive.
The drive, sponsored in part by Lionsgate Films and Yahoo, returns for its fourth year generating awareness and collecting blood across the nation. Looking at the effectiveness of this event over the four year period is very encouraging as, like Saw’s box office take, the numbers seem to grow with ever outing. If you’re interested in donating blood, you can locate the closest location through the Blood Drive’s official site, but if the drive continues to grow, perhaps by the time Saw X rolls around they’ll be able to take it to the theaters, inspiring moviegoers to donate on sight.
It’s encouraging that the Saw franchise strives to be more than just a gore-fest. Making an entertaining series of slasher pictures is easy, but to take that success and use it to help the victims of something your movie supposedly glorifies is remarkable and admirable.
I Am Legend - At a glance, the new Will Smith film I Am Legend with its sprawling shots of a long vacant Manhattan and slice-of-life moments of a man left alone in the biggest city in the world, all with the unseen but inevitable threat just waiting to reveal itself, looks to be an exciting new idea on a Big Willie budget. But the deeper we travel into the preview the more it reveals itself to be just more of the same. It’s another monster movie using the same tricks, the same scares, and the same audiences that will undoubtedly line up for it.
It’s not fair to jump to any conclusions, especially after 30 Days of Night a couple weeks ago which used those same horror movie fundamentals but still managed to deliver them in an exciting way. And you can never count out Smith who decided to chase monsters this year instead of awards. He’s one of this generations best action heroes and it’s always a lot of fun when he shows up to remind us that.
Legend is based on a cult classic novel by Richard Matheson. I’ve not read the book, but thought I might over the next month before the films release. My natural concerns are spoiling the movie and not being able to separate the two. Nothing kills a great movie more than expectations or comparisons. But I’ve had some luck with this method in the past. Reading the books for Zodiac and Into the Wild and another great Smith adventure I, Robot helped me navigate their broad structures but coincidently, also resulted in my not reviewing the films. I would hate for that to happen again, but curiosity is getting the better of me I’m afraid…
Not much to say today. I’m sorry for the hold up on the comic. Yeo was sick towards the end of the week and it carried over into the weekend. It felt wrong to leave her in the middle of the night to go watch a pig-faced monster torture people. And even after seeing the movie on Friday it felt wrong to leave her alone while I reflected on how disappointing Ms. Piggy was. But I hope the comic was worth the wait.
Tonight on the Triple Feature we’ll be talking about… well I’m not sure what we’ll be talking about. Gordon and Tom have made it clear that they’re not too big on the Saw films. I’d be up for discussing Dan In Real Life which I found to be surprisingly warm and entertaining, but perhaps I can persuade them to discuss something more neutral like the impending strike that will shut down Hollywood, the outing of Dumbledore, or the newly surfaced pictures of theAliens Vs. Predator hybrid. It’s been a weird and busy week.
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