If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw. With the 7th (and final?) film, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010), in theaters, I figured it was a good time to revisit the series and play a little bit of catch up and check out Saw VI.
Having lost interest in the series after the redundant, flashback-filled, Saw V (2008), I had never gotten around to checking out Saw VI, despite it’s release back in January. Thankfully, NetFlix® obliged by providing the film amongst their “instant queue” choices, and I got my chance.
Would Saw VI provide the series with a redeeming film? Or has Saw gotten a bit too long in the tooth by this point to provide any more entertainment?
Costas Mandylor’s Detective Hoffman is a far cry from the nuance and utter terror that Tobin Bell’s caring killer Jigsaw brought to vivid life in the first few films. Hoffman just seems to like the brutality of the violence involved. Costas does a decent job of bringing that to the screen, although it’s obvious he just isn’t as into the role as Tobin was. Tobin drew viewers in, while Costas keeps them at an arm’s length. The viewer can sense he just isn’t trying as hard as Tobin, so never gives themselves over to the film as completely.
Of course, the focus has shifted from the victims to the killers more and more as the film progresses, so the viewer already has a harder time relating to the main characters. In Saw (2004), the focus was more on the victims, and, thanks to solid performances from Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell, that film was able to bring terror to a whole new level for viewers.
These days, a Saw film has so many victims, it’s hard for the viewer to really get to know any of them, and will find themselves taxed to remember if the characters have been introduced previously or not. Sadly, this means familiar faces – like “Family Matters” (TV) alum Darius McCrary, among others – are largely wasted, as they turn out to be not much more than quick walk-on roles. If this is the case, why not bring in more recognizable faces to pop in for a torture cameo? Faces viewers don’t know are quickly forgotten as the film speeds along to the next “trap”.
Peter Outerbridge pops up as William Easton, a main character for this film, and, like recent victim Jeff Reinhart (portrayed by Angus MacFadyen in Saw IV (2007)), has to wend his way through a series of traps on his way to his family. He does a solid job in the role, and does manage to eke out some empathy from the audience at the choices he finds himself having to make. That helps make Saw VI a bit easier to watch.
While Saw VI does have plenty of flashbacks, they have thankfully learned a little from and don’t spend the entire story there. Easton’s plight takes forefront, but the dull detectives are finally also making strides in identifying Jigsaw’s partner. Jigsaw’s wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) also bears watching. With all of this grounding the viewer in the present, the flashbacks of Easton’s previous encounters with Jigsaw are easier to take. On top of that, some of Easton’s flashbacks remind viewers of where they saw the current torture victims (which, as mentioned above, isn’t as easy to remember as it used to be earlier on in the series).
The traps themselves are still as intriguing as ever, and present a lot of new and challenging ways to get through them. Thankfully, Mandylor’s Hoffman seems to be back to sticking to Jigsaw’s plan, and does provide escape routes this time around. This makes the traps more of a reminder of Jigsaw’s much creepier “caring” killer than Hoffman’s brutal, unfeeling one.
While not one of the best films in the series, Saw VI does show viewers Jigsaw’s still got plenty of inventiveness, even this long after his death, and that the series can still provide a few surprises. Plus, it tosses in a hint at what’s to come in the final (?) film, getting viewers psyched for one killer of a finale.
It’s not without it’s drawbacks, but Saw VI is still halfway decent, especially considering it’s the 6th film in 6 years about the same killer. Check it out today before you watch the grand finale in Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010).