Despite the negative reactions to the third film in 2006, the Saw franchise saw no signs of slowing down and the yearly output continued with Saw IV in 2007. From our perspective, the wheels had started to come off the train with the disappointing and repetitive Saw III. While not a terrible movie, it was all beginning to come across tired and lazy.
You can read our reviews of the franchise to this point below.
So, Jigsaw is dead, right? We saw him die at the end of the third film. So just where does the story of Saw IV go? Well, it’s mainly about tying up loose ends and revealing that John Kramer (Tobin Bell) had set in motion even more savage and torturous games.
Continuing the overly gory themes of the third film, we get a lengthy autopsy of Kramer’s body to open the movie. After a minute of visceral gory, you might start to wonder what the point of all this is. Well, a cassette is found in his stomach and when Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) listens to it, it is revealed that the games will continue and Hoffman is to be tested.
Officer Riggs (Lyriq Bent), a character who has played a minor role in the previous films, has become obsessed with finding the missing Detective Matthews (Donnie Whalberg). Most of his fellow officers have accepted that Matthews is probably dead, but not Riggs. He is one of the surviving few original officers involved so feels personally responsible to protect those still being tested.
Meanwhile agents Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) have been brought in and begin to suspect Jigsaw had more accomplices. Rigg is the one who comes under suspicion though, especially when he disappears.
Where is he? He’s ended up in his own Jigsaw game. One where he is given 90 minutes to save the lives of the still alive Matthews and the recently captured Hoffman. To do this, Riggs will have to visit different locations and decide the fate of other players.
With the FBI one step behind him and his trail making him look more and more guilty, will Jigsaw complete his work beyond the grave or is there something larger in play here?
Saw IV is where the story starts to get really convoluted. Not quite tying itself into knots as it will in later entries but there is no watching this film in a bubble. You won’t need to have the history of Saw open in your browser to follow it but you’ll need to have paid attention to the previous films.
That’s not a bad thing as the reward for long-term fans is to see the loose ends of the previous films begin to tie up. However, this is easily the most predictable movie so far. Saw always does a ‘big reveal’ at the finale but this one falls flat as it just confirms suspicions that are laid almost immediately.
It’s an issue with the writing, three writers will do that, more than anything else. However, it’s not the only issue unfortunately. Darren Lynn Bousman takes the director’s chair once again and you can tell he was getting bored of it. Everything is Saw by numbers. From obscured angles, to the gloomy lighting, to the sped-up footage, to constant jump cuts, it’s all here. The lack of new ideas is actually kind of surprising.
Why bother when all audiences want are more and more traps? Well, Saw IV delivers with an array of violent and nasty sequences. The creators want to make you wince and one or two will still do so. However, chances are many viewers will be beginning to find themselves desensitised to the lashings of gore here.
If you want to see people suffering intense agonies while someone desperately tries to save them, then Saw IV will deliver. However, more then any other film so far, this one just feels like set-piece after set-piece. It also doesn’t help that most of the traps surround characters who we don’t know or who are horrid people.
Which brings us to the final issue…the characters. Mainly those of Riggs, Strahm and Perez. The latter is just there because the only other major female character in this series is killed off at the start. Strahm does have more to do and will have a lot more to do in Saw V but he is a frustrating watch. He often seems to be unable to see things that are right under his nose. Finally we have Riggs, a character suddenly thrust into the lead role. Where the audience is now expected to care about him. It just doesn’t happen and his eventual fate is just met with ‘meh’ reactions.
Saw IV is the worst one of the bunch so far simply because it does absolutely nothing new beyond introducing Jigsaw’s replacement for the next couple of films. Yes, it ties up loose ends but in the process reveals even more.