Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Premise: The fourth film in the Saw franchise follows a SWAT officer (Lyriq Bent) who is put into the final game left by Jigsaw before his death in the previous film. At the same time, a pair of FBI profilers (Scott Patterson and Athena Karkanis) follows clues that suggest someone has taken Jigsaw’s place.
What Works: Saw IV is pretty well made film. The editing, especially between scenes, is very well done and the art direction is very impressive. The film actually improves on the previous installment with better cinematography and a more coherent story. Saw IV adds some interesting new components to the familiar mix of psychological and physical torture. This film builds on the background given in Saw II and tells the back-story of Jigsaw and how his psychosis developed. This is done very well and by nestling it within this story, Jigsaw is kept relevant to the plot despite being deceased. It also has the distinction of taking Jigsaw in the direction of a tragic figure and the back-story turns Jigsaw into a man rather than a monster. By the end of this film, Tobin Bell’s character emerges as one of the best horror villains since Pinhead of the Hellraiser series. The story of Saw IV is also able to elevate the challenges presented to the hero. The puzzles Bent’s character faces are very interesting and carry more weight to them than some of the tortures seen in the previous Saw films because they are designed not only to test him, but to recruit the character and turn him into another disciple.
What Doesn’t: The story of Saw IV is more complex than any of the other entries in the series and it jerks the audience around between various storylines. While it edits between them fairly well, it relies on a lot of coincidences and with so many characters in such a small story, the film is missing a lot of the character development that made the original Saw so frightening.
Bottom Line: For a horror series in its fourth installment, Saw IV is certainly shooting ahead of the curve. The surprise of the original film is not to be topped but Saw IV does manage to carve out its own place and seals Jigsaw’s place among the great horror villains.
Episode: #165 (November 4, 2007)