Saw IV (2007) Lionsgate/Horror RT: 95 minutes Unrated Version (strong grisly bloody violence and gore, extreme torture, language) Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Screenplay: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan Music: Charlie Clouser Cinematography: David Armstrong Release date: October 26, 2007 (US) Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Lyriq Bent, Scott Patterson, Athena Karkanis, Betsy Russell, Justin Louis, Donnie Wahlberg, Angus MacFadyen, Dina Meyer, Marty Adams, Janet Land, Ron Lea, Sarain Boylan, Billy Otis, Kevin Rushton. Box Office: $63.3 million (US)/$134.5 million (World)
The previous installment should have been subtitled The Final Chapter seeing as how both John Kramer (Bell) and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) died at the end. But you know what they say about keeping a good man down. Apparently, this also applies to horror movie boogeymen. Saw IV illustrates the old saying that when God closes a door, He opens a window. They found a way to keep Jigsaw alive and testing more victims even though he’s clearly deceased. The movie opens with his autopsy. You can’t be much deader than that. Fans of the series would all agree that Saw IV is where the magic kicks in. Non-fans would say that this where it starts getting convoluted.
I’d say both statements are true to some extent. It’s confusing if you haven’t been paying attention. How the writers (Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan) tie this fourth chapter into the events of the previous movie is actually pretty clever. I didn’t see Saw IV going down this way the first time I saw it.
This time, the unfortunate test subject is SWAT Lt. Daniel Rigg (Bent, Skinwalkers) who finds the body of Detective Allison Kerry (Meyer) a few days after her death. He’s obsessed with the notion that Eric Matthews (Wahlberg) is still alive even though it’s been six months since his disappearance. It turns out that Kerry contacted the FBI before she died. Agents Peter Strahm (Patterson, Gilmore Girls) and Lindsey Perez (Karkanis, Survival of the Dead) believe that Jigsaw had an unknown accomplice. Unhappy with Rigg breaking protocol at the crime scene, Detective Mark Hoffman (Mandylor, Mobsters) sends him home. That night, both Rigg and Hoffman are abducted by the now-familiar figure in the pig mask. Guess what? Matthew is indeed alive and Rigg has only ninety minutes to save him; otherwise, he will die along with Hoffman by way of a trap to which they’re both rigged. So begins a series of tests in which he must decide the fate of criminal offenders. Meanwhile, the FBI agents bring Jill Tuck (Russell, Avenging Angel), Kramer’s ex-wife, in for questioning after finding a clue that points to her at a crime scene. Could she be the unknown accomplice?
And now for the Saw movies’ raison d’etre, the gory highlights! They are as follows: the aforementioned autopsy, a woman has her scalp slowly torn off, somebody gets impaled through the neck, somebody’s head is crushed, two people are shown impaled together by rods and a man is forced to mutilate his own face with knives to escape a trap. I’ve saved the best for last. A man gets dismembered by chains after being forced to gouge out his own eyes. It’s pretty cool.
We learn more of Kramer’s backstory in Saw IV; specifically, another incident that led to him going insane. It also explains the puppet that delivers instructions to his victims. One of the things I admire about the Saw films is that the makers appear to care about narrative continuity. The pieces of the puzzle fit together neatly. Not only do the writers tie up a few loose ends in Saw IV, they also leave the door wide open for future installments in a way that makes sense. How to explain that? It’s best to think of Jigsaw as a persona rather than an actual person. Hey, it worked in the Scream movies. It works equally as well here. The suspense in Saw IV comes from not knowing who’s pulling the strings this time out. Of course, this is all gravy. What really gives this movie (and the others as well) its groove is the deadly traps. They’re cool. Plus, by making Kramer a civil engineer by trade, the writers make it believable that he came up with them to begin with. The makers really pay attention to story detail in the Saw movies. That’s what sets them apart from other horror franchises. As much as I like the Friday the 13th movies, there’s little continuity between the sequels. As for Saw IV, it’s a very effective shocker with awesome (non-CGI) gore effects. Once again, I dig it!