STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $14.99
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

• Commentary by director Darren Lynn Bousman
    and star Lyriq Bent
• Commentary by producers Oren Koules, Mark Burg and
    exec producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. 
• Darren’s Video Diary
• The Traps of Saw IV
• The Props of Saw IV
Deleted scene
• Music video of the song “I.V.” performed by X Japan.

Oliver’s note: if you haven’t seen
Saws III or IV and actually care, there’s more than a little spoilerage afoot below.

The Pitch

Death is only the beginning…of more sequels.

The Humans

Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Lyriq Bent, Athena Karkanis, Shawnee Smith, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer, Donnie Wahlberg.

Unfortunately for Tobin Bell, this was the only way he was going to get out of his contract for more Saw sequels…

The Nutshell

Jigsaw (Bell) is dead.  His apprentice Amanda (Smith) is dead.  Damn near everybody from the first three movies is dead.  Yet the games continue, and even from the hereafter, Jigsaw has a few aces up his sleeve he hasn’t played yet.  This time the story involves Det. Rigg (Bent), who knew both Detectives Mathews (Wahlberg) and Kerry (Meyer), who were both victims of Jigsaw’s previous machinations.  Also involved are Agents Strahm (Patterson) and Perez (Karkanis), who are working the latest case from different sides.  Jigsaw may be gone, but he’s making damn sure he’s not forgotten. 

Jigsaw’s most sinister trap yet?  A stint in Chino Prison…

The Lowdown

Okay…this is go-round #4 for me and the Saw films.  And there aren’t too many more euphemisms I can use to describe the onscreen carnage that unfolds in this movie that I haven’t touched upon in any of the first three…save one: this film is a bloody mess, and yes I mean that in both ways, but with a somewhat important codicil.  When I first saw IV, after having seen the previous three, I was thinking that the franchise had completely run off the tracks.  Because there were pivotal occurrences at the end of III that were seemingly ignored here, without explanation whatsoever.  Say what you might about the Saw franchise, there is attention to detail that has been paid to the previous three films that there wasn’t here – upon first glance.

Further research from my go-to source for background data, Wikipedia, in fact sheds light upon some missing story elements that will be explored in future saw movies (yes there will be more of them).  However, those threads aren’t addressed in IV.  At first I thought it was for lack of filmmaking detail.  Turns out that Saw IV is a sort of Saw III.V bridge film from III to the upcoming V.  I can really say no more on the subject, but I can tell how I thought it affected IV before I knew this little nugget of detail.  Nevertheless, if you feel the burning need for spoilers, check out this link and scroll down to plans for Saw V.

Trying to figure out the last couple of twists of Saw IV had the same effect on many people…

To start out, IV is just as gnarly on screen gore-wise, and at first I thought that it was a film property that was pretty much grasping at straws at this point, idea-wise and creative death-wise.  If you’ve managed to follow the series up to IV – and if so, I applaud you for your perseverance…or at least your gluttony for punishment – the question that you’re definitely going to be wondering is this: with Jigsaw and Amanda dead, who’s making with the inventive and bloody endings?

One theory is that in fact it’s still Jigsaw, hatching one last, post-mortem scheme to teach someone a lesson that could either change their life or end it – spectacularly.  Another is that Jigsaw has yet another accomplice besides Amanda, who may have even been with him from the beginning, yet to date has remain unrevealed.  And still another theory is that it’s simply a copycat.  I mean hey, if it worked for Friday the 13th, Part V (arguably at least), why the hell not?  Then again, it could have all been a bad dream, and we’re starting completely over.  Alas I can neither confirm nor deny which of these theories is correct, or if any of them are correct, but what I can tell you is that before discovering the spoiler info on the Wiki link, Saw IV looked to officially mark the fact that this franchise had run its course – again, upon initial viewing.

If you think this is bad, you should see this guy’s bad cholesterol count…

First, leave us start with the fact that from the outset, the viability of the Saw franchise had a limited shelf life to begin with.  Not in terms of concept, but that the main baddie, Jigsaw, was going on borrowed time due to terminal cancer.  It added a layer of depth and uniqueness to his character, but it also meant that if this film series ran past two or three installments, ole Jiggy was going to be offing people from the great beyond, or at least one hell of an iron lung.  And alas that fact came to pass at the end of III as Jigsaw got a radial saw tracheotomy.  So even though he and Amanda are now out of the picture (supposedly at least), someone – not saying who or what – is still running a game, this time involving Officer Rigg, the SWAT commander who has appeared in a couple of the previous movies, and FBI Agents Strahm and Perez, who are probably called in because Jigsaw saw offed damn near every police officer in town in the previous films.

Nice to see some of those Slither extras still getting work…

So since Rigg and the two FBI agents are the main characters this go-round, where IV immediately seemed to fly off the rails is that, for a franchise that had made pretty good use of continuity between the films, the entire climax of III, involving Jeff (MacFayden), the tortured protagonist, is tossed into the garbage can.  Jeff was horrified to learn one last bit of evilness involving a member of his family that Jigsaw had targeted at the very end of the film.  That isn’t explored whatsoever in IV, and the clock was ticking at the end of III.  But like other elements that were introduced in previous films, you have to wait for the next one to get some answers.

One note that should also be made is that like the other films, Saw IV has great gore, special effects and even sound effects.  The opening autopsy on Jigsaw is a nice display both visually and audibly.  There’s some nice juicy sawing of bone and squishing of innards there.  And of course there is the inevitable twist at the end of the film.  This one didn’t grab me like the others and the ending of the film was more than a little confusing upon first glance.  It took this second viewing to get a better understanding of what Bousman was doing here.  There’s also much more backstory of Jigsaw’s life pre-power tools.

“Hey baby, just wanted to tell you that Jigsaw ain’t the only one who gets off on chains, deadly toys and leather straps…”

I’d say this is the least of the four films, because let’s face it, it’s not easy to make these as original when you’re cranking out one a year.  But I have to admit that I’m still interested to see how the whole franchise eventually plays out.  Call me a glutton for punishment.

The Package

The Saw films all have a grainy, gritty and dreary look that adds to the fun atmosphere.  The format of this film is 1.78:1 with 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and Dolby 2.0.  Like the previous Saw discs, this set has a number of special features including two commentaries, one by director Darren Lynn Bousman and star Lyriq Bent, and the other with producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg and exec producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine.  Darren’s Video Diary is a half-hour video record of the shooting hosted by Bousman with some fairly neat behind-the-scenes views of the carnage-in-progress.  The Traps of Saw IV are a series of seven featurettes about the various new death traps in this movie, including one that pulls your scalp off, one that pulls your limbs off and one that loops Britney Spears’ greatest hits on 11.  The Props of Saw IV is a nine-minute featurette about the new props for this movie as well.  There’s one deleted scene and music video of the song “I.V.” performed by X Japan.

Turns out the penalty for being the final loser of the new reality show, The Jigsaw Apprentice is a little more severe than just being fired…

6.9 out of 10