out of Five
Running time: 95
The law of diminishing returns is in full effect here and Saw IV is strictly for hardcore fans of the series, especially as it requires a working knowledge of all three previous films.
What's it all about?
The fourth instalment of the death trap-based franchise opens with a naked Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) being gorily sliced open on the mortuary slab. However, it turns out that – surprise! - he had time to record and swallow one last tape before he died, so his murderous games begin all over again, causing multiple headaches for Detectives Hoffman (Costas
Mandylor) and Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who are convinced that some of Jigsaw's victims may still be alive.
Things are further complicated by the presence of two FBI agents (Scott Patterson and Athena Karkanis), who are convinced that Jigsaw may have had an accomplice working from inside the investigation. In addition, Tobin Bell gets several flashback scenes that explain how Jigsaw became the loveable, choose-your-own-fate-obsessed psycho we know and love.
The Jigsaw flashbacks are the best thing in the film, largely thanks to Tobin Bell, who clearly relishes the chance to flesh his character out a bit. However, the other characters are badly written and continually behave in ridiculously stupid ways.
Arguably, it's the fiendish nature of the death traps themselves that are the hook for the franchise these days and in that respect, Saw IV is a bit of a disappointment. Sure, there's a trap that pulls the hair off a woman's head, another one that pokes a pervert's eyes out and even one where a man has to push his face into knives in order to escape, but frankly, four movies in, this sort of thing is starting to get old.
The film also keeps the tradition of the ridiculous final twist in place, although this time around, it's a real bottom-of-the-barrel job that's a far cry from the brilliance of the original.
Basically, Saw IV is about as good as you'd expect a fourth instalment to be, considering the original writer and director have long since departed. Disappointing.