When we watched on DVD a few years back, we were blown away by this stunning new take on horror. Combining a twisted maniac with incredibly clever traps and the chance his victims can actually escape, it took terror to a whole new level.
Then, we watched the 2nd film, , and were extremely disappointed. After such a good beginning, to have the series degenerate into mindless garbage was saddening. So, we watched not expecting much – and were surprised it managed to recover a lot of the mind games that were lost in – but we still figured the series was doomed – so much so, Heather didn’t even want to watch and see how bad Saw IV would be. I, on the other hand, am a glutton for punishment at times, so I went ahead and rented the film. After all, how bad could it be?
There are a bigger cast of characters this time around, and they get a bit confusing at times. Lyriq Bent does a good job as a SWAT member gone rogue, but the other characters, including newcomers Costas Mandylor and Scott Patterson, are rather dull and frequently uninteresting. Director Darren Lynn Bousman apparently realized this, as Bousman did his best to hype up their sequences with danger and/or camera effects to distract viewers from their performances – and it actually works, for the most part.
The plot of the film seems straightforward at first, but as the movie progresses, it does a good job of tying in with the loose threads left from the previous films as well. Unfortunately, the film goes through a lot of twists and turns before it starts really getting interesting, and a lot of those twists and turns may have pushed the viewer too far away for the ending to have the impact it could have. A lot of the main story of the film – especially SWAT member Riggs’ journey, are a lot more far-fetched than anything seen in the previous films (including Smith becoming Bell’s apprentice, the biggest leap of faith seen previously).
While the quest itself bears a striking resemblance to the main quest in , the motivations are different for this quest – and the actions the character takes don’t fit. In the previous film, the character’s moves made sense, as he was dealing with huge helpings of both grief and anger. With this film, the feelings aren’t as intense, so the extreme actions the character goes through in the film don’t seem logical from the viewer’s standpoint.
If the viewer is able to hang on through this rather befuddled middle part, however, the film heats up near the end, where the seperate strings from the previous films start to entwine themselves with this 4th film, leaving the viewer satisfied with the ending – while at the same time (of course) paving the way for yet another sequel (probably due to hit theaters sometime around Halloween 2008).
Up to this point, the Saw sequels have been presented as separate stories, with only Jigsaw’s puzzles tying them together. After this 4th film, they seem much more like 4 different parts of the same game, and it will be interesting to see how much will tie in with it’s predecessors.
The biggest drawback of this film is it’s glossing over of some rather major plot points, none of which can be given away without spoiling the film. A few sequences are never explained, time-wise, seeming to take place both before the sequence of events and a great while afterwards. Also unexplained – possibly due to time constraints – is a gadget glimpsed in use during one of the sequences. It’s purpose is never explained – nor how it got there…or the rest of that character’s story. That character’s story is told in glimpses, but not how he got from where the glimpses show him – and the condition he was in – to where he is the next time the viewer sees him.
The gadgets, always a highlight of the film, are back with a vengeance, coming out in numbers for this 4th film. Like the gadget mentioned above, some of the gadgets aren’t fully explained – their purpose, but not why what the victim does will help him escape, for example – which is unfortunate. Still, whoever is coming up with these twisted gadgets seems to have a never-ending supply of them. While this doesn’t say much for the sick and depraved mind that’s coming up with them, it practically insures this series will continue ad nauseam. As long as the gadgets keep being so twisted and ingenious, people will keep coming back for more.
While Saw IV has it’s faults, the ending that ties up a lot of loose ends from the previous films is worth the wait. True, not all the questions are answered, and some of the explanations are glossed over, but what better way to keep the viewer returning. If the film was going to answer all the questions, what incentive would viewers have to see . Ok, there’ll be cool gadgets, but leaving a few question marks doesn’t hurt either.
Still, it’s a bit frustrating some of the questions they do leave open, and the motivations suffered a bit in this film, but that still leaves Saw IV way above the generic horror flicks spewing out of the studios in droves these days. If you’re a fan of the previous films (and what horror fan really isn’t), Saw IV is a decent continuation of the series, and (mostly) worth watching.