More gore, still a bore
When I was a kid, Halloween was my second favorite time of year (next to Christmas). I got to bug the neighbors for snacks, throw eggs at the town assholes and play dress-up. In short, it was juvenile bliss.
Nowadays, all Halloween means for me is that I have to sit there and watch another goddamned Saw movie.
I usually preface my Saw reviews by saying “I’ve never liked a Saw movie!” and that remains the case after watching Saw IV. What surprised me most about the continuing saga of Jigsaw the impossible serial killer, is that I didn’t hate it as much as the last two. That’s actually high praise coming from me.
As Saw enthusiasts might recall, Jigsaw met his demise at the end of Saw III. This movie starts off with, I must admit, a technically impressive autopsy sequence where they remove Jigsaw’s skullcap, stomach, etc. It’s a very gruesome scene, which culminates in the discovery of, yes, a new taped message from Jigsaw. It appears his work is not done, for there is a lot more money to be made.
Things get a little confusing after the autopsy scene, but I will try to summarize: SWAT commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who is obsessed with finding missing Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), gets kidnapped and put into one of Jigsaw’s games. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) gets his ass caught as well, and winds up a seated prisoner in the game, with Detective Matthews standing on a block of ice right next to him.
The film vacillates between the game elements and flashbacks depicting the origins of Jigsaw, played with sprightly, childlike abandon by Tobin Bell. Actually, Jigsaw (or John) is still quite depressing in his pre-killing days, with his wife (Betsy Russell) working at a clinic and expecting a baby. It seems that Jiggy made the clinic to help people because he’s just a nice guy who wants to be loved. At one point, when showing his expectant wife some office space, he takes out that spooky tricycle doll, which was apparently meant to be a toy for his kid. That makes Jigsaw one bad daddy-to-be, because that doll would freak out any infant.
We discover that John became Jigsaw after a drug addict abused his wife’s clinic and an accident resulted in problems with the baby. John concocted a torture device to punish the drug addict, was soon diagnosed with cancer, and the games began.
I sort of hate how the Saw series depicts Jigsaw almost as a sympathetic, virtuous type. He’s a bad role model for kids and pets everywhere.
I also hate the ridiculous torture devices that would require factories and large government grants to create. I know we are supposed to accept the implausible gizmos because it’s just a movie, but Jigsaw isn’t supernatural and is quite incapable of creating such things—even if Shawnee Smith is helping him out on the weekends. If the impossible devices were a little more interesting, I suppose I wouldn’t care, but they’ve gotten progressively duller since the first film.
While the acting is far from spectacular in this installment, nobody stinks up the place as bad as Danny Glover and Cary Elwes did in chapter one, so that’s good. In fact, Wahlberg does a damned fine job of standing on a block of ice and looking completely uncomfortable.
Bell seems to embrace the chance to show us the human side of his calculated killer. Too bad that human side is as monotonous and uninteresting as the sickly psycho version of the character.
On the plus side, the movie did manage to surprise me with its ending—one that actually made the movie better. Not good, but better. Regrettably, it leaves the door open for another chapter, which means future Halloweens will be screwed and cursed with ever more installments of Saw.