Eric D. Snider

Saw IV

Movie Review

Saw IV

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C-

Released: October 26, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

As nearly everyone knows, the surest way to suck all the scariness out of your villain is to over-explain him. "Saw III" had that in spades, reducing the once-creepy Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) to a laughable, bedridden wreck. In "Saw IV," Jigsaw is dead -- and yet he STILL manages to be in about half the scenes, thanks to the magic of flashbacks. The "Saw" masterminds are apparently so determined to ruin this character that they'll find ways for him to appear even after he's dead.

We begin with Jigsaw's autopsy, presented in gruesome, painstaking detail. It's so vivid you can't help but laugh at all the time and expense involved in producing the scene, especially considering it's entirely unnecessary. Whoever created the fake head and torso for them to tear apart, though, that person deserves a raise.

Even from beyond the grave, Jigsaw is up to his old tricks. The game this time involves Rigg (Lyriq Bent), a fairly bad cop whose primary attributes are recklessness and hotheadedness. He's intent on figuring out who Jigsaw's accomplices are, which makes him a perfect candidate to be toyed with by those accomplices.

Through the usual means of recorded messages, Rigg learns that he has 90 minutes in which to save the life of his old partner Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg), who disappeared six months ago and was presumed dead but has in fact been kept alive all this time, pretty much just so he can be used as bait for Rigg. When you see the conditions under which Donnie Wahlberg must spend the entire film, you will be sad to think how badly he must have needed this job.

With the 90-minute deadline firmly established, the film makes the bold decision to go ahead and include several hours' worth of events. Suspects are interrogated; fiendish traps are explained and activated; critical police legwork is accomplished; and all of this supposedly happens in less than an hour and a half. By comparison, TV's "24" is a starkly realistic example of time-based fiction.

While Rigg is doing his thing, his commanding officer Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) are investigating him, since evidence at the first crime scene seems to implicate him. They're also talking to Jigsaw's ex-wife (Betsy Russell), mostly because, hey, why not? It's not like there's a 90-minute deadline or anything.

Darren Lynn Bousman is back as director, having made all the films except the first, and his preference is still to shoot everything as if he were a film student making a Nine Inch Nails video. You get that metallic swooshing sound effect over everything, jittery jump cuts in the middle of people's sentences, and eerie, atonal music playing almost constantly. All of these devices are employed even in the non-suspenseful scenes in the hopes of creating a false sense of intensity.

This installment has going for it what all of the others have had: a few devilishly clever torture scenarios, and an ironic twist at the end. It's what "The Twilight Zone" would have been if Rod Serling were less subtle and more evil.

What this installment has even more than its predecessors is howlingly bad dialogue, always delivered with faux-dramatic movie-of-the-week vehemency. Jigsaw is more a nuisance than a terror now that he's dead, but at least he doesn't yell all the time. These cops act like they're auditioning for the road company of "Law & Order: SVU."

It is impossible to take a movie seriously when the movie obviously doesn't care if you do or not. Everything that's not set in a Jigsaw torture lair is tedious and over-acted. They've obviously given up on everything except the gore sequences. But even with those, the more sequels we see, the less we're going to be impressed (or scared, or titillated, or horrified) by Jigsaw's creative ways of killing people. Even if "Saw IV" were as mildly thrilling as "Saw III" was, it would still be a disappointment, simply because we've seen it before.

Grade: C-

Rated R, abundant blood, gore, and violence, and a lot of harsh profanity

1 hr., 30 min.

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This item has 23 comments

  1. David Manning says:

    With all these crappy annual sequels, it's sometimes hard to remember how the original "Saw" was actually a great movie.

  2. Brad says:

    I agree, the series was already rushing downhill in part 3, and part 4 doesn't even try. The sad thing is that since so many characters in it or are either left with uncertain fates or just plain vanish, it's obvious they're setting up for yet another sequel. It's cheap. Combine this with the tired ol' "characters do things simply because the script says to and not because those actions make sense" vibe, and it all just makes a (former) Saw fan feel like he's been plucked.

    Four doesn't even have the decency to have a GOOD twist, it's just a twist. Sure, it has does some nasty, cringe-inducing traps too, but I'm afraid we're gonna need a little more than that.

  3. Sam says:

    "Saw" was, by far, the best of the franchise, simply because of the formula. There's one main trap that most of the movie entails, with a few "mini" traps scattered throughout, in which the person is given a few minutes to choose either self-mutilation or death. Oh, and one scene where CSI's fall victim to Jigsaw's self-defense traps. "Saw II" deviated from this slightly, but was still a strong entry in the series, if not a bit below the original's standards.

    "Saw III" was the turning point in which the series started floundering. The Angel trap and Classroom Chains trap were both strong starts to the film, but, in the end, the movie just broke down all established pillars of the series to create a somewhat weak title. (The ending finale is probably what kept it alive.) What left me stone-faced in "Saw III" was the fact that the victims couldn't *do* anything to escape the traps, someone else had to save them. While Tim being stuck in The Rack was indeed scary, it didn't carry the power of, say, the Venus Flytrap, simply because the element of *him* having to escape was lost.
    "Saw IV" takes everything that was wrong with the third movie and runs with it. While the Blind/Mute trap and the Knife Chair trap are both thrilling, everything left over falls flat. Additionally, the writer's try to mesh everything together so much that everything feels forced. Was it really necessary for Addison to appear in flashback? Some connections are better left implied.

    And why the autopsy scene? Is it really necessary to see an old man's genitals? Or his internal organs? The whole thing is an entirely unnecessary attempt to push the limits of movie making. "Saw" has gotten by with minimal graphic content. The Needle Pit trap in "Saw II" had no blood or anything, but it's still one of the scariest scenes of the franchise. Likewise, the original short film that inspired "Saw" (which contained the original concept for the Reverse Bear Trap) contained hardly any graphic content. There was no stomach gore to sift through to get the key; all the dirty work was done offscreen. I was a bit shocked that gore was added in when Amanda was placed in the trap. But "Saw IV" just tops that a hundred times. Gore for the sake of gore is not scary.

    They should have put all the effort they put into special effects into finding halfway decent actors, good camera work, and a good script. Better yet, if they had just stuck with the original formula for "Saw", things would've gone smoother, and I might have overlooked those three factors.

    Why not just stick with a plot were Jeff tries to find his daughter? Really, that'd be much simpler.

    "Saw" and "Saw II" were thrilling, edge-of-your-seat suspense movies. "Saw IV" is more like an installment of "Final Destination" -- fun to watch, just to see how things play out, but hardly memorable afterwards.

    The way they put "Saw IV" together was genius. Unfortunately, it was genius applied stupidly. I have a suggestion: let's all get out our "Saw" DVD's and watch the original short film that inspired everything, to remind ourselves what we were originally fans of.

  4. Alex Thorne says:

    its as i feared....

    i made a comment on the Saw I comment thread that i hoped the franchise wouldnt become the next Friday the 13th. sadly, it seems that according to all the reviews i have heard and read, it has happened.

    you are absolutely right about the first one Sam. Saw I was brilliantly scary because of the phsycological terror involved. Saw II was a minor stepdown, but still fairly good. Saw III was just a self gratifying bloodbath. Saw IV?...i may just give this one a miss and watch 30 Days of Night this Halloween.....

  5. David Manning says:

    I'd like to point out that I've never actually seen any of the sequels, as I figured they'd all be crap. I think I made the right choice.

    Personally, I see "Saw" as a good movie that should stand alone. Like the also perfectly good film "Robocop", there simply should not have been any sequels to blemish the name.

  6. Sam says:

    I disagree that "Saw" is a stand alone film. The original "Saw" left quite a bit of mysterious elements that were cleared up in "Saw II" (which, make no mistake, was all the backstory that the series needed). The Razor Box trap, Venus Flytrap, Needle Pit trap, Chains trap, and Angel trap were all great additions to the series.

    And "Saw II" wasn't crap; it was nipping at the original's heels (brought down a bit by the fact that a few characters could have used some fleshing out, since they got considerably more screentime than most).

    I agree that "Saw III" needed some work, but was still halfway decent. And I think we're all agreed that "Saw IV" was entirely unnecessary, no matter how much improvement it could have gotten. I'd always hoped that "Saw" wouldn't turn into another "Psycho", "Halloween", or "Silent Night, Deadly Night". But it's happened.

  7. mike says:

    heres what i thought. [SPOILERS OF ALL 4 'SAW' MOVIES AHEAD] the original saw was excellent. it was an exceptional horror, and the ending was superb... im not sure if its called "saw" because the guys name is jigsaw... or because, and lets remember, dr. gordon cut off his leg with a SAW. that unbelievable part is partly what made saw so incredible... the fact that they actually showed a man cutting off his leg pushed the limits... and pushed them just enough to make the audience cringe.

    saw II was just as good if not better. there were no mistakes, everything flowed well, everything made perfect sense... and the twist at the end was brilliant... having the detective walk right into the same room as the first one, that was great.

    saw III was still pretty good... i mean I personally didnt have any problem with it, it still made sense, the twist ending was still great, not predictable... everything flowed well. i would have been a midly unhappy if this was the last movie of the series... but i would have agreed that it should have been... it was a fit ending.

    now we have saw IV... and believe me i was pretty excited... i had been anticipating it, i was sure it would be just as good as the first three... maybe a little worse because lets face it, its hard to follow 3 great movies... eventually quality is gonna decrease... and it did! this movie was lousy. i should mention i was kinda tired when i watched this so maybe i didnt focus as well as i could have... but it had a promising beginning... until it all turned sour. the plot simply wasnt compelling... the actual traps, some didnt even make sense. for example the one with the man pushing his face into spikes or whatever, good scene... but not relevant to the story, just a flashback... we didnt NEED anymore background information on jigsaw, we knew enough. the cop who was the protagonist in this one... he didnt deserve his fate, he didnt do anything wrong, he wasnt a bad guy. the lesson he learned... STUPID. the twist ending was ridiculous, it hardly made any sense... i could barely understand it. if they do make a saw V.. and you know, they probably will.... it better be freakin' amazing... and if they have to take a year off.. they should, id rather wait 2 years for a high quality movie then 1 year for the trash ive just seen. they better get their act together and quick, 'cause saw IV sucked!

  8. Karen says:

    Does anyone else have Comcast cable? I saw a Saw:Bunnies short that I thought was priceless. It was an animated reenactment of either the last one or all four (I've never seen any) done with bunnies (as you may have guessed). If you're like me and have no interest in gory movies, but are intrigued by the premise of Saw, I recommend this silly cartoon. It's available on demand.

  9. Bryab says:

    Saw is a classic horror film of our time.It had all you can ask for in a horror movie.Sure the acting wasn't so great but hey it's a horror movie we horror fans have learned to look past that. saw 2 was an awesome follow up to the first.Flowed realled well didnt seemed forced at all.once again it had all you can ask for. saw 3 felt a little more forced but had a great ending and would have been a nice closure point.Sure some qustions were left un answered we dont need to know everything leave something up to our imaginations.Saw 4 felt very forced. i guessed the ending after the first time i watched saw 3 so it wasnt much of a twist.The franchise is falling victim to the whole stigma that they gotta out do the last.What they need to do is just do justice to the story and saw 4 did not do that.

  10. Josh says:

    All the Saw movies are gay, including the first one, with Cary Elweewesese or however you say his name.

  11. Shweta says:

    SAW 4 was a complete DISAPPOINTMENT!

    after the movie ended..im like WTF?? was that it?

    after saw, saw 2 and saw 3, i had really high expectations...

    but DAMN this one sucked!! :-(

  12. Lowdogg says:

    I know these movies aren't for me when I read this line from #7:
    "the fact that they actually showed a man cutting off his leg pushed the limits... and pushed them just enough to make the audience cringe. "

    The audience only cringed? I cringe when I look at stiches too closely, much less someone cutting off their leg.

  13. Chuckwagon Breakfast says:

    I think Saw V is going to be a period piece from the French Revolution. Instead of difficult traps, they're going to simply put a procession of people through the guillotine and watch the heads roll. They wouldn't need a script or anything, just a couple of mannequins, some special effects to make it look like a lot of mannequins and ketchup. Production costs would be minimal and the torture porn crowd could get their yearly fix.

    There could even be a malfunction where the everybody associated with the Saw series and Rob Zombie all get their heads chopped off in real life. I mean, it wouldn't be a real waste or anything.

  14. Ragecage says:

    I think Mike hit it right on the head on this one. Every victim through the series of Saw movies deserved their fate. Riggs wanted to save people. Ok, this was his job, I think just about every officer out there would want to help and save people if they are in trouble. He didnt deserve anything.

    [SPOILERS] Also the only real interest I had left in the movie was to see what would happen to Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg). If everything is supposed to be based on morality here, you would think they would let him go and reunite with his son. He went through the torture of maybe watching his own son die, then he gets bamboozled by Saws apprentice who is corrupt when she chains him up. He escapes the trap she left him in by disfiguring his leg and you think that should be enough.

    I can understand the trap he was in, but killing off the last possible hero in the movie is kinda crappy in my opinion.

  15. Benny says:

    You bet they're already working on Saw V. In fact they have already tapped a new director for number six. Blech. And it's the number one movie right now. It doesn't matter how bad it is, if people pay to see it they will make more.. and more and more. They're making these things CHEAP too. Doing the whole thing in Canada to avoid the unions and payscales in Hollywood. Creeps. Too bad too. The first one was a very good horror movie.

  16. Moviez says:

    There could even be a malfunction where the everybody associated with the Saw series and Rob Zombie all get their heads chopped off in real life. I mean, it wouldn't be a real waste or anything.

    I hate torture porn in general (although Saw I was easily among the top three in the genre, and I've only seen two of those films) but I would pay to watch that. Over and over and over. Especially if they made them apologize for making this movie.

  17. Alex Thorne says:

    well, i have now seen the the movie, and it is going exactly as people say it is. ok , it wasnt that bad, but throughout, i was just wondering "what is the point?"

    The autopsy was unneccesary.i sure as hell didnt pay my good money to watch tobin bells twig'n'berries.
    the editing gave me a chuffin' headache, and i think it actually detracted from the effect the traps and their outcomes were meant to have.it would have been alot more horrific to see the traps in ction without panning and whipsawing away to different angles, et al.
    and as someone has mentioned, the twist just didnt make sense. (POSSIBLE SPOILER) i just wondered at the end, "Why did he even take part in this set up?"

    there were some redeeming features. most of the traps (besides the Bed-Vice. i thought that one was crap) were a bit more palatable and "Old School" Saw, which is what i liked about the first 2. also, i actually thought the background story of John Kramer was quite involving, (SPOILER)and i felt such sympathy for him and his wife when they lost their baby. i cheered when Cecil Died!.

    all in all, a pointless yet mildly entertraining diversion. just PLEEEEASE no more sequels!!!.

    6/10

  18. Lotus says:

    It's a slew of SAW movies.

  19. Tyler! says:

    I suppose I could riff a list of things that I care as little about as Sam's (#3) and Mike's (#7) completely unnecessary rehashing of Eric's review. Let's see... low carb diets, Michael Moore, the Republican National Convention, Kabbalah & all Kabbalah-related products, Hi-Def TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hotspots, the OC, the UN, recycling, getting Punk'd, Danny Gans, the Latin Grammys, the real Grammys, Jeff that Wiggle that sleeps too darn much, the Yankees payroll, all the red states, all the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show, everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, everything, everything, everything, everything, everything, everything every-everything that exists past present & future, in discovered and undiscovered dimensions! Oh, and Hugh Jackman.

    Honestly, comment sections just aren't the place to write your own movie reviews. Goodness knows I've even been tempted and I'm the master of self-control, (except for that one week where I just couldn't keep myself from checking the weather every 20 minutes - but then you all know how 4th graders are about snow days).

    The point is... Well, I guess the point is that comments about movie reviews are awesome. Your movie review on a movie review website that isn't yours? Not awesome.

  20. Yen says:

    SAW IV was absolutely unnecessary!!!

    [SPOILERS for all Saw films abound.]

    SAW - of course, the original, introduces everything. Clearly, at the top of the food chain.
    SAW II - clears up the ending of SAW, how Jigsaw was alive, instead of having supposedly committed suicide in the middle of the room. Had a great ending, and was unpredictable on Amanda's part of being apprentice.
    SAW III - now this clears up Amanda's part of the story, how she became the apprentice. It was also interesting to see how she helped Jigsaw with the setting up of the first SAW scheme. It was very, very nice.
    SAW IV - utterly pointless. Jigsaw died, as well as his apprentice. There was no need for a second apprentice to take on his work. Seriously, the ending wasn't even that twisted. It was something like, "Oh, he's the killer. That's nice." It was not like the previous 3 movies, where you'd drop your jaw in awe and stare at the screen. SAW IV just dragged on the story that had already ended. The moment Jigsaw died in the 3rd one, I already knew the 4th one was going to suck. I watched it just for mere continuance.

    SAW had little gore, but was amazing.
    SAW II had the scariest trap ever; the needle pit. Absolutely no blood involved, and it still haunts my mind.
    SAW III had a bit more gore... what with the brain surgery and the showing of Detective Mathews smashing his foot to pieces.

    SAW IV - plenty of gore that didn't scare the whims out of me. Like someone on this page said before: having gore just for the gore is not scary.

    I'm sure the producer had put into his own head that SAW is all about gore, therefore stuffing the fourth one with unscary gore just for the name of SAW. Buddy, it just didn't work out.

    SAW IV was a disappointment. I was looking forward to watching it, for it to prove me wrong. Who would have known that I was right.

    The next one's probably going to suck as well.

  21. Navid E. says:

    I agree with what everyone's saying. This Saw was pretty disappointing.

    It was rushed, it was confusing. Too many characters, no time to develop, it was just torture after torture. A few of the tortures were thought out and made sense (ugliness of your face = ugliness of your soul, the wife choosing her life or her husbands) but a LOT of them were just random and not as clever.

    The twist was kinda weak, too. Overall I'd agree with a C- grade.

  22. shrimpboat captain says:

    every body from 1 to 21 needs to shut the F up before I cry.it was great!!

  23. casual viewer says:

    [MODERATOR'S NOTE: For some reason, this post has vivid descriptions of the torture devices used in "Saw IV," constituting spoilers of both the movie and one's appetite.]

    Saw IV is problematic, because it is ridden with error, not just psychologically, but also when comes to plot and torture devices.

    The worst error is that Jigsaw John is ripped apart in autopsy in the initial scene, but found later in the Gideon warehouse, intact as when we left him in Saw III. What? The accomplice put him back together just for cinematic effect? Why?

    The next biggest error is that the movie try to make us believe that a junkie and a hustler would cut his own face up in order to escape a trap that consists of his hands and legs being wound up in too tight cuffs. There's no time limit on this torture sequence. He can cut his face up, or he can bleed to death. Then, as he has carved up his face, which comes off mostly just bloodied but nowhere near shockingly disfigured, he yells: "I'm going to kill you" and leaps right at Jigsaw John, only to fall into an equally clumsy barb wire trap (not exactly up to Jigsaw John standard, but okay, it is his "year one"). But here's the problem: Wouldn't you think a two-bit loser like this guy would have sat there falling apart for a while, with blood slowly oozing from the wounds on his wrists and ankles? Would you not also think his face would be a bit more mangled by pressing repeatedly against 12 kitchen knives? I'd say that would have left his face hanging in threads, and his body in shock or at least incapable of attacking Jigsaw John with any kind of fervour.

    The third gross error is the sequence with the fat molester being torn apart, as he fails to release the eye poking machinery in time. This "victim" is tied at his wrists and ankles as well. We see Riggs do that to him. Then he gets his arm torn off. Then a leg. Then another arm. And then, finally, the last of his legs. Do the math. How are we supposed to believe that a body, even having lost three extremeties, produce friction enough in itself to allow the last body part to be yanked off? Do the math: This has got to be heavy machinery. Okay, it does pull him to the end of the bed and right off, leaving a torso with a head to be found by the investigating officers. But come on.

    So, the machines have significant traction. They can rip open rib cages or yank off body parts. Let's just accept that. Then there is a torture scene where Riggs is supposed to rescue a female criminal, whose hair is being yanked into an engine by her ponytail. Riggs shoots the machinery, allowing for a small break in the pulling as the heavy cogs are grinding down the led from his bullets. He is unable to find a knife in the house, as every knife but a conceiled one has been removed. Then he does the implausible: He tries to read the combination on one of the cogs to open the lock that releases the victim. What is his problem. His gun does not shoot through a pony tail?

    The final and worst, least convincing torture scene, has one of the tortured police officers who have, by the way, been kept a captive for six months with a busted leg, in a dirty dungeon, hanging by the neck while he is struggling to remain grounded on a block of ice. One foot is naked, and the other one busted beyond repair. Way before the ice is melting, the naked foot which is the only one providing a solid grounding, would have been numb and had frost bites, so this guy is incapable of keeping himself from hanging. If he slips off the ice, we are told, his colleague will be electrocuted. The conversations between him and the colleague tied to a chair, and even worse, between him and the person we are supposed to suspect as being the next Jigsaw murderer, are rather unconvincing. Particularly as the desperate officer with little to live for is offered a gun. We are supposed to believe that he would not end his life, because that would mean the death of his colleague, even after months of agony and living in the belief that his son has been brutally murdered. Okay then. We are also supposed to believe he would not shoot them both in order to save them from the torture of inevitable death, based on an understanding of the slim hope that nobody will walk through the door and release the execution mechanism. We are even supposed to believe that he will not shoot the apparent Jigsaw accomplice with the gun, based on nothing but one line: "I am the least of your worries." If he had, in his busted up and utterly desolate condition, chosen to ignore any of those playbook rules, the game would have been disrupted, and the house would have lost.

    In the end we are presented with an accomplice that defies all reason. If he is motivated by teaching Riggs the lesson that is implied, it makes no sense that he uses the lesson to take out also the cops that he blames Riggs for being unable to save. But then, all those Jigsaw murderers are insane, and therefore not accountable to reason. Let's accept that too. Only I hope that when they make Saw V they will remember to have at least one of the victims of these deadly games step out of character and actually grow a brain at some point. It would be delightful to watch someone try to use what is left of his life to look beyond the ridiculous "logic" of these challenges and actually do something to beat a game that is rigged beyond imagination.

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