Sheesh, the Saw train is just going to keep on rolling, huh? Not bothered by the fact that this franchise ran out of ideas two or three movies ago, Darren Lynn Bousman continues to soldier on with the series he’s made into a monster as the king of torture-porn — how’s that for a dubious legacy?
Since Bousman took the reins from James Wan after the series original, he’s made the last three films into an interconnected triptych, with each new entry focusing on different peripheral characters from the previous episode while also backtracking and involving earlier story arcs with the new ones. But Bousman’s plots never quite have the feel of deliberate intricacy; they’re too fraught with random continuity and hilarious suspensions of disbelief — Bousman merely leaves himself enough room to keep launching his perennial sequels. Furthermore, a carefully constructed yarn seems pretty pointless since there hasn’t been a single sympathetic character for anyone to really give a shit about since Day One. No, folks, the real point here is gore and masochism, which is certainly in no short supply, though the path to getting them has become pretty insipid.
Beginning with last film’s end, Saw IV introduces itself with a hilariously grotesque autopsy; contrary to my assumptions, Bousman didn’t try to write himself out of killer Jigsaw’s death at the end of Saw III, but that doesn’t mean his ridiculously godlike machinations will cease or be any less wrought, no sirree! This guy makes the killer from Se7en seem like an amateur. Fittingly, a cassette tape fished out of Jigsaw’s breadbasket is played by cop Costas Mandylor (where the hell has this clown been since “Picket Fences”?), informing us that “the games have only just begun.” Oh boy!
The film then follows police officer and previous-installment-background-guy Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who’s become the latest focus of the post-mortem Jigsaw’s plans. Rigg runs around finding clues via Rube Goldberg bondage-machines and the poor, doomed meatbags stuck in them. Rigg is actually compelled to help Jigsaw orchestrate the torture of these poor (albeit deserving) schmucks, because he’s trying to save fellow cop and friend Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg), who we last saw getting Saw‘d in the first sequel. The whole ordeal is meant, as per usual, to be a big moralizing lesson for Rigg, with the plot dicking around with the characters’ multiple interconnections and time-spans. This is all par for the course, by now.
It may actually sound strange, but I was genuinely disappointed by this crap. After an initial misstep, Bousman took the whole franchise to (what I found to be) amusing, over-the-top gross-out mayhem with Saw III, veering the whole silly vehicle, so I’d hoped, into Final Destination territory. With Saw IV, Bousman reverts back to grimy, clunky storytelling and fails to out-gross the previous sequel. Saw IV, as I’ve said, is more of the same, but with diminishing significance — the director can only think of so many ways for a rusty snare to kill people — and we’ve become overly familiar with the concept anyway. The plot does delve into Jigsaw’s past motivations a bit more and answer a few questions, but does anyone really give a shit about these things save through rote curiosity? Bousman is, conversely, too ambitious to be the revolting entertainer his movies really demand him to be; his sick little film should’ve had us rolling in the aisles instead of checking our watches.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.
Saw IV / Phillip Stephens
Film | October 28, 2007 | Comments ()