“Saw IV”; oh, the horror of mediocrity

saw VI

If it had been a little worse I might have enjoyed Saw IV. As it stands there really isn’t much to be said that can already be guessed about this latest installment, but I think I can come up with a few things.

First of all, poor Donnie Wahlberg. He makes a cameo appearance that hopefully isn’t the doom of his career. This is the same thing that happened to Emilio Estevez after appearing briefly in Mighty Ducks 3, next thing you know an elevator pummeled down upon him. I like Donnie Wahlberg. I liked him in The Sixth Sense, Ransom, Boomtown…I like him as an actor. I even liked him in Saw II, which makes it sad for me to see him in Saw IV, however brief it is. The only other actor here that I like is Tobin Bell, the man who plays the villain and lead character Jigsaw. He has a calm face, one that commands attention from the other actors; his eyes pin point you and don’t let you go and maybe it’s his voice too, it crackles like static from the radio – hypnotic and unsettling. I couldn’t tell you if he’s a good actor or not, but he’s certainly good at what he does in the Saw movies. And his list of television credits dates back to 1988 when he appeared in The Equalizer, that show where a lot of other fine actors got there start…hello, is that Kevin Spacey!? The rest of the actors used here feel like straight to DVD actors or maybe it’s just that the movie doesn’t know how to and doesn’t care to show an actor act. Many of these actors were seen in Saw II and III. I saw part 2 and missed part 3 so story threads that carried over from the third didn’t affect me, but then again neither did elements that carried over from the second, so I guess you don’t really need to see either of them. But what happens in this film that cheapens the performances I have a feeling has less to do with the actors and more to do with the director and the editor.

The way this film has been put together reminds me more of a trailer for horror films of recent years than a movie. The camera suddenly speeds up for no other reason than to get somewhere quicker. Series of violent images that flash non-sequentially and quickly across the screen are supposed to get under our skin. In fact the whole film lacks continuity in its editing. One moment a person will be walking, we cut away for a brief second and cut back and the actor has suddenly stopped or is now leaning against something. An actor is never allowed to finish a movement naturally, which makes everyone feel a bit like constructs, which in essence is what they are. They are pieces in a game that the audience is supposed to figure out and very little more.

Officer Rigg played as convincingly as one probably could by Lyriq Bent is the lucky contestant in this round. But the puzzle is an easy one to figure out. In fact most of the audience should be smarter than he is and by this time knows that he should listen to Jigsaw. There was still something fresh about part 2. You weren’t sure whether to believe Jiggy or not, now we know better. We’ve become cynical towards something cynical. Needless to say with each offering of Halloween gooeyness, the cops, detectives and in this case also FBI agents, get dumber. They run off to places where they believe their prey is by themselves, without letting anyone else know…this is an FBI agent for goodness sakes. Though the one thing that the law never forgets to do, which must be ingrained in their heads during their training, is to never forget and look on the backside of a photograph for a clue, because the murderer whether he realizes it or not can with reason or compulsively give away the one thing he doesn’t want to on the back of it.

The movie itself continues to humanize Jigsaw with further back story. If the reasons that he was diagnosed with cancer and then almost killed in a car accident aren’t enough to inspire him to begin his experiment in helping others, well there’s more! A wife with a heart of gold and a child that never came to be. Oh, poor soul! Poor wounded Jigsaw! From what I hear part 5 will go even further into his past and show us how that girl that stood him up at prom also helped lead his brilliant and gentle mind astray. The sad thing is that these flashbacks are the most interesting segments of the film, thanks to Tobin. The other flashbacks, the ones at the end of the film that visually bombards us with the answers that were “right in front of us the whole time” in a nauseatingly ham fisted montage of important lines and images, are the least interesting flashbacks in the film.

The rest leads to a conclusion we see coming from a mile away, and though we may not see every twist, none of them are as affecting or worthwhile as they were in the first two. And that comes down to the logic of the piece. But to bring in logic would be a waste of time, wouldn’t it? No. A film, be it horror, sci-fi, drama, when it creates a set of rules it should follow it, unless they logically build in a way out. One of the most interesting scenes is watching Jigsaw’s first experiment. It is the only time he faces the person he is torturing. The person passes and learns nothing. You would think that this hiccup might have made Jigsaw rethink his scheming ways, but no. This muddies his reasons as far as I’m concerned. It makes that persons demise more about revenge than helping them. The other thing is watching a cop who wants to do good so badly that he’s obsessed with it, doing the bad things Jigsaw wants him to do. Or watching Jigsaw put someone in a trap who doesn’t deserve to be and hurting them by blowing up glass in their face, or using them to make it difficult for another person to get out. The point of Jigsaw that made the first film so original is that he took normal people who made mistakes and punished them in awful ways for it. The second took a bad cop. Now Jigsaw is going after good cops? It ain’t The Jigg’s M.O. So if it’s not Jigsaw who is it? It’s the filmmakers that have set a trap for the audience and their worried about us getting antsy and thinking that we, their core audience, is losing focus so they have a bloody gory moment; or they have to cut around to the same line said 6 different ways in a span of 3 seconds, or to use strangely awkward transitions to get us from scene to scene, but only at random occasions. In fact
The one thing I do appreciate is that each sequel is a sequel carrying on stories from previous films rather than just having a new set of naked teenie-boppers to take out, and in the end we’re left with threads that will carry over to part 5. Though I didn’t like it, there was something harmless and slightly enjoyable about the film and that’s the wrong reaction for a violent horror film. The trailer seemed to get the tone down better. With the puppet, no cuts, no quick camera movements, talking to the camera; it’s creepy and it’s what makes the endless sequels so easy to want to see, because it reminds you of when the idea was original and how it surprised you into fear, but if the next one is as poorly put together as this, I imagine people will have figured out the trap and attendance will start dropping off and the rest of the series will be straight to DVD.

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2 Responses to ““Saw IV”; oh, the horror of mediocrity”

  1. Josh Says:

    I’ve heard that cameos in Mighty Ducks 3 are career killers.

  2. Phillip Says:

    Josh, things like that must never be spoke of.

    But for those of you wondering. I appear in a crowd scene in Might Ducks 3…my first bit of Hollywood film acting.

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