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October 9th, 2009

Now that we've looked at the three best Saw films to date, we move onto Saw IV.


Saw 1, 2, & 3 were created by Leigh Whannell, James Wan, and, arguably, Darren Lynn Bousman

Whannell is the creative mastermind behind the franchise. He has, so far, written the first three films and has been in every film since as Adam Faulkner-Stanheight, the photographer that got locked in the bathroom in Saw (original). Wan was the director and a writer for Saw (original) and a writer for Saw 3. Bousman has directed 2, 3, and 4. Whannell and Wan have also been executive producers for all but Saw (original).

In Saw 4 Whannell and Wan have passed their franchise to Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who wrote Saw 4, 5, and 6.

Before becoming the minds behind Jigsaw, Melton and Dunstan wrote the B-list studded horror/comedy, Feast and its sequels. They are also Project Greenlight season 3 alums.

(Project Greenlight is a film-making reality TV competition created by Academy Award winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.)

Feast, the brainchild of Melton and Dunstan, was the story about a western, middle of nowhere bar, that gets attacked by cannibalistic, face-raping monsters. It was, much like 1984's Gremlins, almost a spoof of the horror genre. The creatures and characters in this movie were stereotypical of horror films and the movie let the audience know this at length. They openly poked fun at horror movie cliches and played off of them. It was as much making fun of the genre as it was trying to be a good horror film. Feast was good, but it was in no way ground-breaking. Most of the time it felt like a comedy rather than a horror film. (Fun Fact: Jason Mewes is in this one for the first 15 minutes or so as himself.)

So how well do comedic horror writers perform when they try to write serious horror films?

When we last left our beloved Jigsaw, he was dead. John Kramer is getting an autopsy and we get more gorey surgery scenes. They take out his brain and open him up. They check his stomach and immediately call into homicide.

Our friend Detective Hoffman, who we met in the last movie, is given a tape that was inside Jigsaw's stomach. We saw Jigsaw cover this tape in wax at the end of Saw 3. In true psycho fashion Jigsaw lets Hoffman know that they're not done playing games.

Then we get out first trap, no tape, no goal, just two guys, one blind and the other mute, chained to a winch. The winch starts pulling both of them toward it. Mute guy kills blind guy in a paranoid and panicked battle and escapes to appreciate life.

We cut back to the Jigsaw compound. Hoffman is breaking in and doesn't get a very warm welcome. After a dead cop and a crime scene, Special Agent Strahm, new guy on the case, gives us a theory that John and Amanda aren't the only ones kidnapping people.

Lieutenant Rigg, is our new overzealous cop. His team mates are getting whacked and he just can't seem to relax until he's the big hero. Rig gets nabbed and we find out that his game is to save Eric Mathews, our police officer friend from Saw 2, who is surprisingly not dead and standing on a melting block of ice. As soon as the ice melts Mathews will be hung.

In order to save his fellow police officer, Rigg has to choose between saving the victims of Jigsaw's other traps and letting them die, like in Saw 3. The hard part comes in when Rigg finds out that all the victims are there because they are criminals. Jigsaw also has Rigg doing some of his dirty work and setting up some of his twisted games in order for Rigg to get to know John Kramer a little bit better. Along the way Rigg gets clues to where Mathews is being held.

The criminals of course are playing their own games and as Rigg tries to save Mathews, the special agents are tracking him as a suspected accomplice.

In the meantime Mathews is involved in not one, but two games. He has to stay on his block of ice or a guy sitting in a make-shift electric chair gets fried.

Our background information on John Kramer is being told through his ex-wife, Jill Tuck, who is being interrogated as part of the investigation, because her photos show up at a crime scene, and a series of flashbacks. In this story we find out Jigsaw's origin: Kramer meets Tuck. Tuck gets pregnant. Crazy drug addict kills baby. Tuck divorces Kramer. Kramer gets into a nearly fatal car crash. He has an existential epiphany. Kramer turns into Jigsaw.

There isn't much character development or even plot development in this movie. It moves too fast. You don't get a sense of who these characters are. All you get is that Rigg has some anger issues, the cops are cops, Kramer is kind of crazy, Jill is resentful and for whatever reason is connected to a whole lot of her ex-husband's crimes, Jigsaw is getting a bit more relentless, and Mathews is suicidal. The movie is all action and conflict. There's no sense of pacing. You aren't attached to the story anymore, because it doesn't let you. The only new information you get is that the franchise isn't done, even though our villain is and he's a little less rational.

It seems like they're pulling at strings to keep the story going, just so they can kill people with traps. Granted, that's half the fun of the movie, but you have to use some basic film making rules. You can't skip straight to the action without properly establishing the context, or even getting your audience in the mood to be freaked out. It's like the cinema equivalent to a quick fuck in a bathroom stall. There's no foreplay. It's just rough, awkward, uncomfortable, not for people under 17 stuff, and afterward you're not as satisfied as you wanted to be, because you were rushed, your neck hurts, and you're kind of queezy and regretful.