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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Writer: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton, Thomas Fenton
Calvin Hussey

With Jigsaw’s game well and truly up towards the conclusion of the third film, it seems the Saw saga will end a trilogy, and for most it’s a welcome end. But the game is by no means up, and upon entering the premiere of Saw IV I am one of a large percentage of skeptics with low expectations for this fourth outing in the series.

The film starts with perhaps the most climatic opening sequence of the series as we see a blinded man pitted against a silenced man in a high-octane clash that can only end in classic Jigsaw style pain and suffering. As a freshly reassured crowd still sits in awe at the impressive sequence, another weight is lifted off the skeptic’s shoulders; Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his accomplice Amanda are dead. There’s no half-assed, copout of a twist explaining his survival and we don’t have to stomach a lame attempt at a supernatural return of the killer and his protégé, they are dead – pure and simple. Despite this relief, it still begs the question; how can we have a Saw film without the narratives popular villain?
The obvious answer lies in the threat of a copycat killer continuing his work. At first this may appear as yet another copout, and you may be forgiven for thinking that the original killer’s demise will lead to nothing more than a shameless cash-in. This however is not the case, and instead of leaving the original character behind, this fourth installment of the franchise gives more depth to the character than is experienced in any of its predecessors. In an attempt to discover a copycat killer or third person behind the original atrocities FBI agents delve deeper into the killer’s origins. Their investigation leads them to Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill, played by Betsy Russell, who is a lead suspect in the latest murders.

It's through Jill's retelling of her past that we discover how compassionate engineer John Kramer made his spiraling descent in to his murderous alter-ego Jigsaw. Through such sequences Jigsaw becomes the most sympathetic character in the film, a stunning accomplishment when considering how he is responsible for all the violence witnessed throughout the series.

In addition to Jigsaw, Saw IV focuses on Rigg (Lyriq Bent), a S.W.A.T. Commander haunted by the loss of his colleagues to the murderous games of Jigsaw. After being abducted by Jigsaw's mysterious new protégé, Rigg finds himself thrown into a game manufactured by Jigsaw from beyond the grave. Due to his obsessive need to help people Jigsaws game sends Rigg on a journey that forces him to learn a prominent message; you can’t help people, they must help themselves. To do this he must follow a series of deadly clues designed to make him see people through the eyes and mind of the killer. However, as usual in these films, he must do so in a set time or his and his family’s lives are at stake.

Saw IV is by no means perfect. On a strictly visceral level, the film surpasses all expectations boasting the most violent and creative deaths seen throughout the series. The innovative addition of Jigsaw makes the character more three-dimensional in death than he has been in life. However the film does still have its flaws. While Riggs’s character is involving enough, his plight doesn’t vary from the plight of previous Saw victims, and therefore tends to fall very much into "been there, done that" territory. Also, as genius as the expected "twist" may be, the new copycat protégé of Jigsaw is still left with a distinct lack of motivation to explain their actions. It is a conclusion that will certainly infuriate as many viewers as it impresses.

Overall, Saw IV more than surpassed my expectations and, after the severely disappointing third chapter of the saga, continues to strengthen the high repute of the Saw franchise. Whether its creators can continue to build its strength over another two planned sequels however is yet to be seen. Needless to say, the game is far from over.

© Calivin Hussey November 2007
Calvin is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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