SAW IV

R, 93 min, 2007

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Writers: Patrick Melton (screenplay) & Marcus Dunstan (screenplay), Patrick Melton (story) & Marcus Dunstan (story) and Thomas Fenton (story)

Stars: Tobin Bell, Scott Gordon-Patterson, Costas Mandylor

Here we descend yet once more into the filthy, disturbed, (apparently) moral philosophy-fixated mind of Jigsaw, the “ingenious” serial killer prone to complex mechanical puzzles and implacable more dilemmas which often result in the torture, mutilation and gory murders of seemingly innocent victims.

Saw IV begins with a twist (of sorts): After Saw III, Jigsaw, aka John Cramer (Tobin Bell of Mississippi Burning and the previous three Saw films), and his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith, formerly of the infinitely less torturous TV sitcom Becker) are dead. This film begins with Cramer’s autopsy, a gory and disgusting affair which provides something of a litmus test for the audience – if you can withstand seeing what is removed in all sorts of detail from Jigsaw’s lifeless corpse, you can probably withstand most of what this movie throws at you; I probably should’ve taken it as a sign to quit.

As if this isn’t enough, we then see an overweight man with his eyes sewn shut awaken in some kind of mausoleum. We then see he’s attached via ankle chains to a man with his mouth sewn shut. Only the man without the capability to speak knows that he isn’t the one who did this to the man who is now blind. To top that off, these two will have to battle for control of the chain, which is connected through some sort of medeival grinding device on the floor.

You get the idea – and this was all prior to the title appearing on the screen! The “plot,” when it finally kicks in, involves Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor, formerly of TV’s Picket Fences) investigating this latest spree of Jigsaw-esque crimes, searching for whomever the murderer’s accomplice might be; his colleague, a SWAT member named Rigg (Lyriq Bent) who is urged along by Jigsaw (via tape recordings and videos) to work his way through a violent, bloody morality maze in order to save his former partner Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and (apparently) the kidnapped Hoffman; two FBI special agents, Strahm (Scott Patterson, formerly of TV’s Gilmore Girls) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) who believe Rigg is Jigsaw’s newest accomplice; and the subplot of sorts involving Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell), and the agents striving to understand what made Jigsaw into what he’s become.

For me, that last bit of the plot kept it all fairly interesting: the idea of what happened to turn John Cramer into Jigsaw intrigues me to a degree. The rest is filler. You have to credit (yes, credit) the screenplay by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton for attempting to create a horror story that actually has a plot which isn’t the old stand-by of a creepy killer lurking in the shadows and lunging to off a seemingly infinite supply of teenage girls and boys (ala’ the Friday the 13th and Halloween sagas). Unfortunately, what good is all the plot in the world if it is simply at the mercy of a gore-obsessed torture porn exercise like what this series has become thanks (in no small part) to director Darren Lynn Bousman?

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