‘Saw IV’ DVD 23/10/2008

Did we really need to see Jigsaw’s penis?

My thoughts within the opening thirty seconds of ‘Saw IV’ as our hero is laid out on a slab. This autopsy is the most violent scene in the series.

Until now I’ve enjoyed the ‘Saw’ films to varying degrees. Iffy editing aside, the first is an effective thriller with some strong, original ideas. It makes superb use of its tiny budget. The second and third I also enjoyed, albeit to lesser degrees. I admire the continuity of the franchise as much as the ingenuity of the traps, scenes from each new instalment weaving backwards and forwards through the series timeline retrospectively changing our perception and understanding of previously revealed events and motivations.

Many find the ‘one every Halloween’ setup a gimmick, I do not. I find a reassuring familiarity in the ability of Lionsgate to turn out a new film annually, regularly enough to allow for this retroactive continuity and twisted chronology that makes the series stand out from its contemporaries.

‘Saw IV’ is the first sequel/prequel/film in the franchise to disappoint me. Original writers departed, lead character deceased, it is the first to feel ‘tagged’ on to the previous three pictures. The casting and aging continuity remains flawless, but do we really need to learn more about Jigsaw’s past? Haven’t we learned enough of him? An attempt to crudely insert Tobin Bell into the film is made on every possible occasion, and poor overall execution, lazy plotting and weak twist (especially considering ‘Saw III’ left such possibilities for this edition) makes for an unsatisfying horror experience.

Maybe I’m a little unfair on ‘Saw IV’. To be honest, it’s less of a film and more of a bridging device between the first trilogy and the final two episodes of the (to be) six film franchise. There are some impressive scenes and it improved a *lot* on repeat viewing, but it just doesn’t cut it as a standalone film.