It's Horror Movie Month! "Saw IV" Review

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Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) may be dead but the game isn't over in this 2007 horror thriller, dubbed the 'midquel" to 2006's Saw III. After a tape recorded message is found in John Kramer's stomach, Detective Hoffman (Carlos Mandylor) and SWAT Commander Riggs (Lyriq Bent) are thrown into yet another fiendishly complex morality play. FBI agents Agent Strahm and Agent Perez are called in to assist in Hoffman in sifting through Jigsaw's latest grisly remains and piecing together the puzzle.
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It's Horror Movie Month! "Saw IV" Review

Rating: R (sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, language)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2007
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Genre: Crime/Horror/Thriller

At the end of "Saw III," Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) was apparently decapitated, which seemingly sounded the death knell for the character. Fortunately for fans of the character, he recorded a tape before his death, which he swallowed so that it would be found when the coroner performed his autopsy. On the tape, Jigsaw reveals that he has netted Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), a cop who was presumed dead, in one of his elaborate traps. Matthews is standing precariously on a block of ice that is quickly melting, which will cause him to be hung to death by the chain around his neck. Right next to him in the trap is another detective, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who is also on the brink of death. They will both succumb to this plot unless SWAT hero Rigg (Lyriq Bent) comes to the rescue.

Jigsaw always meticulously researches the lives of his victims, and it is no different with Rigg. Rigg has something of a savior complex, wanting to help as many people as he can. He also has a short temper and no patience at all, which Jigsaw wishes to cure. He sets up his trap so that only Rigg can save Matthews and Hoffman. To do so, he must go on a wild goose chase across the city, trying to find the location of Jigsaw's lair. Along the way, he will be put in situations in which he has to choose whether to save the lives of his fellow cops or the lives of total strangers.

Meanwhile, the body of Det. Kerry (Dina Meyer), a serial killer expert who died in the previous film, is recovered and autopsied. The coroner realizes that a nearly-dead Jigsaw would not have had the strength to kill Kerry in such a way, leading the cops on the case to wonder if Jigsaw has a new, much bigger and stronger replacement. While Rigg searches for the detectives, a manhunt begins for the new Jigsaw.

With this fourth installment in the franchise, "Saw IV" establishes that any plot holes left over from the previous films will be filled in through flashbacks. Of course, anyone who just likes a bloody and gory good time can still watch it without having to view the first three movies. It helps to watch the earlier ones though, especially the first installment, which was wholly original for its time. Even after almost a decade, no one has made a film quite like the original "Saw," though many attempts have been made to capitalize on its formula and plot. "Saw IV" isn't like the original "Saw" either, because it focuses less on the suspense and tension that helped make the original so intriguing and more on blood splatters and coming up with new, creative ways to trap people and force them to harm themselves in order to survive. It also helps to expand the universe that was created in the first two films while also adding new characters who will likely help producers keep making new entries into the franchise every year. Fresh blood (pun intended) was needed, especially since Jigsaw died at the end of "Saw III."

Even in death, Jigsaw still manages to haunt the proceedings, creating dread and mayhem from beyond the grave. Bell as Jigsaw and Shawnee Smith as his apprentice Amanda (who appears in archival footage in this film) are the stalwarts of the franchise who will probably still be with the series for years to come despite the fact that their characters are dead. In horror movies, the villain never seems to be truly dead; Jason Vorhees from the "Friday the 13th" films has been resurrected many times, and so too will Jigsaw. In the case of "Saw IV," this is a good thing, because the films just wouldn't be quite the same without Bell's creepy presence. Even if that presence is only maintained through taped recordings, it still provides a solid foundation upon which the writers and director of "Saw IV" build the story.

From the opening autopsy scenes of both Jigsaw and Det. Kerry, the audience knows what they are in for with "Saw IV." This film has a lot of gross-out scenes thanks in part to the handiwork of director Darren Lynn Bousman, who apparently has never met a blood bucket he didn't like. The script by screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan works in tandem with Bousman's eye for goriness to produce a film that pushes the queasy button early and often. Fans of truly graphic horror films will love the new direction that "Saw IV" is taking the franchise, especially since the ending sets up one or more sequels for the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5