For fans of the Saw trilogy, you'd thought that the end of the third installment had wrapped up the franchise quite neatly, and there's absolutely no way another movie can be made except to go backwards in time with prequels. Well, surprise surprise, director Darren Lynn Bousman brings forth the fourth movie of the franchise, and so long as it continues to churn profits, you can bet your last dollar this isn't the last you see of the Saw movies. To be cautious, here's a little spoiler warning for you if you decide to read further. And one reminder, please refresh your memory of the earlier Saw movies, especially Parts II and III, before you go for 4.
This is the beginning of a new franchise so to speak, with the obvious signs that it has attempted to be all encompassing, being a little timid to boldly create something fresh with a new direction, as it had to still fall back on Jigsaw to provide some stability first. And from the get go, Saw IV never lets up on the blood, starting the movie with plenty of plasma, and scenes directly reminding me of Unrest, with an autopsy being performed on our favourite cinematic serial killer. But things are always not quite they seem, especially when the signature tune gets played.
As I mentioned, Saw IV goes for a two-pronged approach. One, to continue exactly where it left off from Part III, and thereby reintroducing us to characters and their demise from the earlier installment, and the constant mystery of just who exactly was the mantle passed on to, given this becoming a plot point left dangling. Two, given the relative successful creation of the enigmatic Jigsaw, now comes the time to fill up on the meat to his background story that we get a glimpse into from the past movies. In parts, this was like an origin story, about who he is, what he does, which circumstances occurred and drove him over the edge, and what actually provided that spark to his devilish creations and philosophy of twisted chance.
I had mixed feelings for this movie, as I would for almost all movies caught in the middle of different methodologies and approaches. What I liked, was this origin portion, although it was played out sporadically, and left you clamouring for more. We even get to see Jigsaw's earliest designs, which were quite primitive but no less effective, and his pioneer victim, thus appreciating how complex the later traps have evolved, but yet keeping to his mantra and modus operandi, an immensely important part which distinguishes this villain from others. What I didn't appreciate, and this was in part due to the earlier movies with recurring and surviving characters, was that they all get lumped together here in too big a life-and-death game boiling down on coincidence and plenty of sheer luck. It was a necessary evil though involving so many characters, to keep you constantly guessing until the last minute, and to close up all the gaps that the earlier movies posed, so as to set the stage and move the franchise forward, probably in a different way in Saw V.
You will be confused if you haven't seen the earlier films. This film is not standalone, and is very much integral to all the earlier stories. If you go into this fresh, you will not know who's who, and what's what, and will definitely be confused and not appreciate anything beyond the bloody creative traps. For those who have seen the earlier movies (Part II in 2005, Part III in 2006) you might have forgotten certain details, but fret not, just pay healthy attention to the dialogue, and keep your eyes peeled during the flashbacks, and you should do just fine.
Saw has come a long way from being just a cleverly played out movie in one critical locale with just 2 players duking it out, and with the ditching of the iconic grimy toilet for Saw IV, it's an indication that it wants to shed itself of past inhibitions. While the key figure might have met his demise, he had already set in motion his ideas and philosophy that have its fair share of supporters, and the concept will outlast the man himself. What Saw had spawned was a series of torture porn movies (Turistas, Hostel franchise, Wolf Creek, the list goes on), but what makes it truly memorable, is how easily its ideology gets transplanted to other wannabes, and as a sign of it reaching legendary and cult status, its momentous theme song is one of a kind.