- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Lions Gate Films
Reviewed by David Medsker
t’s official: the “Saw” franchise has abandoned its “Hostel”-cribbing ways and is now a full-fledged horror/comedy vehicle along the lines of the “Final Destination” movies. How much you enjoy “Saw IV” will greatly depend on how willing you are to forget the series’ origins as a graphic thriller and embrace its newfound “Ha ha, you’re dead” approach. In fact, there isn’t much else about the movie to enjoy, since the story is the most convoluted, house-of-cards pile of nonsense since, well, “Saw III.”
The movie begins with Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), dead on a slab in the morgue. During his autopsy, the examiners discover a tape in Jigsaw’s stomach, where he declares that his work will continue. Sure enough, Detective Rigg (Lyriq Bent), distraught over the deaths of his colleagues, is plunged into an intricate series of puzzles that give him 90 minutes – luckily for him, there is a big ticking clock in the background at every stop –to find the secret location of both missing Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Sergeant Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Hot on Rigg’s tail are two FBI profilers who are convinced that the late Jigsaw has had an unknown, living accomplice all along, and set their sights on Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell).
The opening “game,” involving a man with his eyes sewn shut and a man with his mouth sewn shut (the footage leaked at Comic-Con earlier this year), is hilariously clumsy. It’s like watching a fight between two drunk brothers at a family reunion. In fact, all of the games were far more amusing than harrowing, and two of the deaths are laugh-out-loud funny. On the plus side, they seem to have purged themselves of the hypocritical preaching that poisoned “Saw III,” but they cannot escape the fact that their once-unique premise is now as formulaic as a “Friday the 13th” movie with a “shocking” ending. Speaking of which, the ending to “Saw IV” is 16 different flavors of ‘you’ve gotta be freaking kidding me.’ You won’t see it coming, but that’s only because there is absolutely no way it could ever happen, nor is there a discernable reason why it would happen.
With “Saw IV,” Lionsgate has drained every drop of blood they could out of the concept of Jigsaw. They kill him in the third installment, and spend the fourth movie examining his origins. Well, now what? There is an answer to that question, of course, but to be honest, it’s not very exciting, not to mention somewhat of a sellout. But hey, they’ve sold out everything else that made the first movie so unique, so their latest steps to continue pumping out “Saw” movies should come as no surprise.
Unrated DVD Review:
If you simply cannot wait for the two-disc deluxe edition of “Saw IV” that will drop sometime in October, this single-disc release will serve as an appetizer. There are two audio commentaries, one from the producers and one from director Darren Lynn Bousman and Lyriq Bent (where Bousman gleefully points out mistakes and stunt doubles), along with featurettes on the movie’s props and traps, as well as one deleted scene and a music video. It’s pretty good as single-disc DVDs go, but a two-disc set will soon follow. Make your choice.