The wait is over. Saw IV has been released, and it has lived up to the expectations I had for it. After the end scene in Saw III, I couldn’t imagine how they could top it. Yet somehow they managed to make a movie that not only upped the gross out factor, but also told us more of the story. While some may see these films as simple blood & gore, it’s not exactly the case. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has a story to tell, and a message to convey. Cherish your life. No one can give you time. Save yourself. These are messages and themes that have run throughout the Saw series from the beginning.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Saw IV is the fourth in a horror franchise that has made a name for itself with gruesome, drawn-out death scenes and a killer with a noble purpose. Jigsaw, or John Kramer, seeks to give people the tools to appreciate their own lives. He seeks out drug users, rapists, adulterers, domestic abusers, and others who show no respect for their own life or the lives of others. He places them in “traps” – contraptions he built as a master engineer to give them the choice to survive. Getting out of the traps inevitably causes them incredible pain and injury, but they live to see another day. If they choose not to fight for their own life, the trap will kill them eventually. Jigsaw proved that his twisted methods work when he found an accomplice in a former victim, Amanda (Shawnee Smith).
In the fourth film, we find Jigsaw and Amanda are dead. Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who you’ll remember from Saw II, is still missing. Fellow detective Rigg (Lyriq Bent) has let his emotions get in the way of his job and his marriage, and it will cost him. It is his turn to be tested by Jigsaw.
The movie follows several storylines, as is usual with this series. We follow Detective Rigg as he encounters each test. We follow FBI Agents Strahm and Perez as they desperately try to track down Jigsaw before they find more victims on their hands. We also get a deeper look into Jigsaw’s personal life, which is the most interesting part. Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), is questioned by police. In a series of flashbacks we learn more about what drove Jigsaw to the life he chose – the extreme circumstances that made him the killer he became. We get to see the moment he changed, his first trap, and why the victim was chosen.
I truly enjoyed the movie. While it is nothing short of disgusting at times, there’s also a deep story, and a moral to the story, believe it or not. Jigsaw is a very, very intelligent man. And in the end it’s his story, not the blood and gore, that entertain me the most. The story of a man so broken and yet so resilient that he believes he can literally change the world one person at a time. He’s a fascinating character.
Of course, the gore is what brings the teenagers out to the films, and there was plenty of it. The opening autopsy scene was even more graphic than the R-rated clip online was. Each of the traps was horribly disgusting and painful to watch. None more so than when we watch Jigsaw watching his first victim attempt to get out of the trap.
The end scene has an outcome typical of Jigsaw’s plans. That’s not to say that you can see it coming. Even as hard as I was looking for clues to what might happen, I missed it all. All I can really say is that the Saw series somehow manages to reinvent the twist-ending with every sequel.
In the end, you need to be a fan of the series in order to understand the entire story. The flashbacks are there, but are vague enough as to almost be inside jokes. However, for heavily invested Saw fans like myself, the movie added to the backstory, continued on the work of Jigsaw, and didn’t damage what’s already happened in the storyline. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for in a sequel. Hopefully the planned Saw V and Saw VI will continue the tradition for two more Halloweens.
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