Thanks to DVDsnapshot.com, I've finally been ushered into the Saw film series... I'm not sure how I feel about that...
Special Agent Strahm is dead, and Detective Hoffman has emerged as the unchallenged successor to Jigsaw's legacy. However, when the FBI draws closer to Hoffman, he is forced to set a game into motion, and Jigsaw's grand scheme is finally understood.
True confessions time: I had never watched one of the Saw movies before. I caught maybe twenty minutes of the first one, but beyond that the whole "torture porn" genre always left me cold. Saw IV one start with a couple of loan sharks (one played by the winner of a "Scream Queen" contest) having to competitively slice themselves apart to throw their flesh on a scale and beat Jigsaw's contraptions certainly has a sense of schadenfreude for many, though. Would the man cutting his stomach for rapid weight loss win versus the gal chopping her own arm off? It's morbid, brief, and a flashy way to start a film.
The next scene I assume to be a flashback to the end of part five, and it introduces a "villain" in crooked cop Costas Mandylor (made up for the film with far too much pink lip gloss), who I assume to be the current Jigsaw, though this is a part where having seen the previous five films would certainly come in handy. Sending him up against a petty Insurance Adjuster, his staff, and a nosy tabloid reporter is witty and current. Actuary Tables can't compete with the Jigsaw's evil booby-trapped tests of will.
Mandylor and Betsy Russell, as Jigsaw's widow, continue carrying out his "Last Will and Testament" with the signature Saw grisly murder scenarios. Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith are worked in through tapes, flashbacks and Russell's hallucinations, even though I understand their characters died already in the series. Russell and Smith are still lovely, welcome film presences even as villains. Bell is a long-time character actor obviously having a good time, even if pretty much his every line is delivered in a grim monotone. The victims, however, aren't nearly as developed or interesting. But again, they're just meat for Jigsaw's grinder.
Gritty, flashy cinematography and jarringly creepy music over-sell the tone of the proceedings even as they set it. Be it a blurry snippet of a prior installment or detailed close-ups of grue and gizzards, the Saw style gets tiring on a level where you wonder why no one is spoofing it yet, a la Scary Movie. Flashbacks to previous films (and scenes in this one) keep the new viewer, not up on the proceedings, but roughly fill in enough of the basics that you can nearly follow this sixth installment. Thankfully, character development isn't the issue, even if the point of the story is supposedly testing one's character. In the end, the sadism of the traps and winless choices are unpleasant in the extreme. You can appreciate it as a horror movie, but a few scenes, specifically the merry-go-round one, say more about the viewer than Jigsaw should you enjoy them.
Saw VI is presented widescreen with English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX Audio and English and Spanish subtitles. Trailers for Gamer, Blood Creek, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, Train, Planet Hulk, and the Break.com and fearnet.com websites.
Special Features include 3 Audio Commentary tracks, one with the Producers, the other with the Director and Writers. Short featurettes on The Traps of Saw VI, Jigsaw Revealed (an interview with Tobin Bell), and A Killer Maze (The Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Saw attraction). There are 4 music videos from the soundtrack, and the film's theatrical trailer.
Also included in the package is the DVD for the first Saw film. It's also presented in widescreen with 3 different English audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and a bonus commentary track with Director James Wan and Writer/Actor Leigh Whannell. The special features include a featurette, Trailers and TV Spots, a Poster Gallery, rated and unrated versions of the Fear Factory music video "Bite the Hand That Feeds You," along with a Making-of featurette for the video.
Not a bad extra to get at all.
Grisly "Gorenography" to churn a buck in a series, I can't recommend the newbie start with this one. But as a horror film, Saw IV is flashy, vulgar, and dark. Call it a sadistic thriller for the Health Care Reform Bill argument. Perhaps installment VII should be Jigsaw versus Congress?
I just can't figure out two things: A) Who has the kind of free-time required to set so many traps and arrange this many kidnappings and B) who enjoys watching this sadistic stuff?