"Because I am dead, you think this is over?" –- Jigsaw
Halloween has come around again, bringing with it fall colors, jack o' lanterns, candy, and torturous tests of a character's willpower in a new Saw feature. It's nice, knowing the holiday will have at least one scary movie to enjoy while the kids are out gathering candy. Where it gets risky is if the movie will be any good.
Most franchises run out of steam by the third movie, sometimes the second. The Saw series, however, bucks that trend by starting weak, then being strong in each following flick. I'm happy to say that Saw IV is a scary, gory, fun movie that continues the saga of our trap-setting serial killer, while laying the groundwork for the series to continue for a while yet.
Yes, Jiggy (Tobin "I want to play a game" Bell) himself is quite dead. The movie opens with his autopsy, and despite being a regular C.S.I. watcher, it was incredibly squirm-inducing for me. It's very bloody and graphic, and I regretted having lunch before watching the flick. On the other hand, it's just about the worst gore in the film, so if you make it through this scene, you should be okay for the rest.
The plot, as in Saw 2, revolves around a former side character now thrust into the limelight, and one of Jiggy's life-lesson deathtraps. Once more, it's one of the police officers hell-bent on catching Jigsaw, SWAT commander Rigg (Lyriq "Dresden Files" Bent). He can't let go of his obsession to save people or catch Jiggy, and refuses to believe his friend Eric (Donnie "The Mean New Kid" Wahlberg) is dead. This makes him ripe for one of Jiggy's games.
Rigg is driven to go over the case file after he finds the body of cop Dina Meyer, who once was a naked soldier in Starship Troopers.. His game is designed to not only have him re-examine his life, but understand Jiggy's motivations.
Complicating things, F.B.I. agents Strahm (Scott "Gilmore Girls" Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis), were working with poor dead Detective Dina Meyer to find a before-now unknown Jiggy helper. As the agents point out, Jiggy was dying of cancer, and his assistant Amanda wasn't strong enough to have done the heavy lifting for some of the traps.
They discover that Rigg and Hoffman are missing, and focus on Jiggy's ex-wife Jill (Betsy "Superboy" Russell), and from her we get more of the back story that shaped Jigsaw from simple architect to twisted trap-making game-player.
Much like the previous movies, there are interweaving stories, intricate traps, tight plotting and a great bunch of "what if I was in that situation" moments. The storyline is well done, and it's very cool seeing more of what made Jiggy the killer he is, as well as his very first trap.
The movie is a lot like a mix of Saw 2 and Three, feeling like a mix of the two films. It has the same tone and feel of them, but aside from the opening autopsy it isn't nearly as squirm inducing as the last one. This comes from Bousman directing all three, so each film has a consistent feel that I like. He keeps the movie moving forward, giving us little time to really worry about possible plot holes and keeping the film taut.
It's not perfect, however. Once more we have a interweaving montage at the end that ties everything together. While it doesn't drag like the one in Saw 3, there is some information revealed about the timeline of the series that feels like a cheat. Still, the ending is tense, and like in previous Saw flicks, you can almost see it coming, which makes it a bit worse. The addition of the third helper also almost feels like a cheat, but I was able to get past it.
While Saw IV isn't as good as Saw 2, it's as good as Three and better than the first, which is pretty surprising.
With how the flick ended, I'm actually looking forward to Saw V. The franchise can open up a bit from the formula and do something different now that Jiggy himself is not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.