John Kramer, aka the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), as well as his apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), have died. After hearing of Detective Kerry’s (Dina Meyer) murder, two veteran FBI agents, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis) assist Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) in sorting out the remains of Jigsaw’s last game. However, SWAT Team Commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent) has been put into a deadly game himself and has only an hour and a half to prevail over a series of twisted, horrifying traps to save an old friend, as well as himself, from a grisly demise.
I was genuinely shocked in a good way that Saw IV didn’t try to revive John Kramer in some ridiculously dumb way just for the sole purpose of pleasing die-hard fans. In the opening scene of this film, we literally see his autopsy, so him coming back to life later on in the film would have resulted in a gigantic facepalm from me. While the later movies sadly undo this and actually bring him back (take Jigsaw for example), screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan crafted an entire Saw movie where the infamous Jigsaw Killer himself is dead the entire time. Instead, somebody else is setting up traps to teach people the value of their life and others.
But just because John is dead doesn’t mean he didn’t have any final tricks up his sleeves before his demise. In Saw IV, we get to see some of his last strokes of genius on display and it was actually quite clever to behold. They managed to have an entirely new entry in the series that still had the gory and disgusting traps that fans of the series adore, even if it means that they aren’t being controlled by Kramer.
Surprisingly, this fourth installment is actually quite exciting and fun to watch as well. There are never any truly dull moments throughout, although there are some instances where the film focuses too heavily on the traps, which detracts from the overall story as a result. Sadly, it never even comes close to reaching the emotional and gripping highs of the original, but it was essentially on the same level as Saw III‘s story. It has some truly exciting moments and plenty that are tension-filled and amusing to watch.
My favorite aspect of the entire movie though was the character development of John Kramer. Despite the fact that he is dead during the events of the film, there are some instances in which we go back in time and see what Kramer’s life was like when he wasn’t occupied with setting up crazy death traps. He has a wife that he loves dearly and will do anything for. Just for a brief moment, you genuinely forget who the man truly is. You forget about all his heinous actions and see him as a person.
As I said earlier though, Saw IV can rely way too much on its traps instead of its story. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t like the sequels too much – after the first, almost all of them were ninety-percent blood and guts and ten-percent story.
If you saw my review of Saw II, you would know that I absolutely hated the twist ending. I got a strong feeling that screenwriters Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman saw the immense praise the twist ending from the first entry got and wanted to replicate that success a second time. They failed greatly. Not only was it confusing and nonsensical, but it also made a certain character from the original a lot more unlikable.
Here, however, they attempt another twist ending and to my surprise, it actually worked quite well. It’s not mind-blowing by any means, but it’s also not ridiculous and confusing. It makes total sense and even sets up the future Saw sequels. Whether we needed them or not, is up to you to decide.
Although Saw IV still struggles to recapture the magic of the original, it’s nevertheless a delightfully bloody and entertaining horror film with some surprisingly effective twists.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release Date: October 26, 2007
Running Time: 92 minutes