It must say something about the Saw franchise that, while I haven’t liked a damn one of them since the first Saw movie, at least I’ve grown something akin to numb to them. I’ve given into them. There’s no point in fighting the inevitable. Besides, what the Saw franchise has inspired is so much worse than what the actual Saw movies are now, that it’s a bit like walking out of the ocean and into a rainstorm. I’m still getting wet, but at least I’m not completely immersed in entrails and sadism.
It’s also to the series’ credit that the movies are so instantly forgettable. Each year, I review them, and within 24 hours, the whole experience has been erased from my mind. It certainly helps with the continuity of the series — it’s hard to question how the puzzle pieces continue to fit together when you’ve forgotten what 70 percent of the puzzle looks like. Fortunately, they do provide selective flashbacks to previous installments to create the image they want you to see. And who am I to question it? It’s a fucking Saw movie. It really isn’t worth the effort. Besides, it’s going to do $30 million this weekend, and another $30 million next. There’s nothing a critic can say to stem the flow of teenagers searching for a Halloween diversion, though perhaps Paranormal Activity can put a dent in it this year (beware, however, that if it does, we can look forward to six years of Paranormal Activity sequels).
Here’s what you need to know about Saw VI, in case you show up late or are too busy copping a feel in the opening minutes to piece it together. The Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) has been dead for a while now — he was killed off in the second or third movie, I forget. It’s not important, because — even from beyond the grave — he’s still pulling the strings. In Saw V, he was assisted by Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylar), who led the film’s hero, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson), to his death and then framed him for the murders. In Saw VI, there’s a reading of the will, and the Jigsaw Killer’s widow is brought into the scheme. Jigsaw has already put the game into place; it’s up to Hoffman to get the participants into it. But ah hah! There are also instructions, which Hoffman doesn’t know about, to also include him in the game. Twist! (And if you think that’s a spoiler, then you’ve never seen a Saw movie before).
I’ll grant this, too, that the game itself is a slight cut above the previous installments. There at least seems to be a real motivation behind the Jigsaw’s actions, even if it is frogballs retarded: He had terminal cancer before he was killed, and an insurance adjuster denied his claim for experimental treatment. So, it is the insurance adjuster (Peter Outerbridge) who is dragged into the game, where he’s essentially pitted against a brutal, sadistic metaphor for the algorithm that the insurance company used to deny claims. The adjuster, at various points during the game, is asked to apply that algorithm to people — his own co-workers — while they’re staring right back at him. It’s essentially what he does in his profession, but here, the death is more immediate and, well, violent. Politically, I suppose, that makes the Jigsaw Killer sympathetic to Obama’s health-care policy, although his methods seem to be more aligned with Dick Cheney. He’s probably a Ron Paul supporter.
Save for the opening sequence and the finale, however, the devices aren’t as tortuous as in previous installments. There’s a 60- to 90-second build-up toward the deaths, but when they come, they’re at least brief, and not dragged out for the entire course of the film, which is something that can’t be said for screenwriter Patrick Melton’s previous movie, The Collector.
It’s still gory and needlessly nihilistic, but among the movies that the original Saw has been largely responsible for, Kevin Greutert’s (who edited the previous two installment’s) installment is positively family-friendly. Just don’t bring the kids. Or your family. Or the squeamish. Or people that don’t like horror movies. Or people that do like good horror movies.
But it is the perfect movie for the indiscriminate tosser who just wants to sit back, relax, and watch an overweight man slice off the rolls of fat on his belly in order to save his hide. I daresay it’s even safe to buy popcorn this time! It’s a completely vomit-free experience.
Small victories, y’all.