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The fourth SAW film takes fans into uncharted waters. Now that John/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead, screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (writers of the Project Greenlight-produced FEAST) give us Jigsaw's "origin" story--finally showing us why he does what he does. Along they way, they still find time to work in the usual dose of elaborate Rube Goldberg-like torture devices and heaps of MPAA-defying gore in what plays like an extreme version of CSI. During his (extremely graphic) autopsy, Jigsaw's final tape (swallowed in SAW III) is found in his stomach. Promising that his work will continue despite his passing, his message sets off a series of grisly tasks for anxious SWAT team leader Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who is given 90 minutes to rescue detectives Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who are to be dispatched via blocks of ice and high voltage wires. Trailing Rigg are FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson of GILMORE GIRLS) and Perez (Athena Karkanis), who get some unexpected blood on their hands along the way. A series of flashbacks details a pivotal event between Jigsaw and his girlfriend, Jill (1980s beauty Betsy Russell, PRIVATE SCHOOL), which inspired him to devote the remainder of his life to the creation of his signature puzzles.
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Now this is the one that really flips the bird back at SAW 2 and 3, but in a good way. This is the one where we really get into Jigsaw’s backstory and things just making so much more sense. Meanwhile, the B-plot is something somewhat new in which someone is not trapped in a single place but free roaming and dealing with traps as they go. The best part? The man in the game for plan B doesn’t have to save himself…all he needs to do is nothing. Just let other people die. That, for once, is a little something new.
The Story: It’s well executed with the flashbacks to Jigsaw’s origin and man does the story and Tobin Bell deliver on that front. The one thing I have to hand to these films is the pacing is always there. The scenes keep moving and I’m never ever bored at one single moment.
Acting: Tobin Bell is the star of the show, without question. Everyone else is manageable and you really must applaud them because no one is over the top or cheesy. These actors play one emotion, maybe two the whole time, but they don’t take you out of the film. Tobin Bell, however, is the only one who draws him in.
Directing: Darren Lynn Bousman steps up his game in this installment if you ask me. He really maintains the tone of the franchise and never lets it get away from itself. He made a film that I feel takes the franchise in the right step. The traps are never random “lets just make some nasty gory stuff for the audience.” No, there is always a reason for it and it serves the story. You really have to applaud it for that when most horror movies these days just kind of re-do the last 12 movies in it’s franchise. But not SAW.
Cinematography: Some old grungy dis-colored look. And it fits nicely.
Production Design: Yeah, see the cinematography because it’s mostly the same as the rest of the franchise.
Editing: Again, props for not doing the fast sped up film look to cover mistakes.
Score: Yes the score is becoming more and more prominent in the films, but in a good way. With the acting being slightly sub-par, apart from Bell, the music really helps to heighten the scenes. And like always, is still in continuity with the other films.
Special Effects: STOP. Here’s where we hit a road block. This is the SAW film that they first started using CGI. In the words of my generation = EPIC FAIL. You have all these squibs and gallons of blood. Please don’t decide in post that you want an extra squirt here or there. It definitely took me out of the movie a couple of times.
In closing: The film is a great step in the right direction for maintaining the franchise. My only qualms with it are the CGI and the unfair twist this go around. I won’t let anything out for spoiler reasons. But it upsets me that the killer turned out to be who it was in the end now that Jigsaw is dead. It’s unjustified and is used unfairly in the script. But in the end, this is another solid installment in the franchise.