The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

If you think an inconvenience like death is going to stop this sadistic madman and bulk tape recorder purchaser, then you don’t know Jigsaw! And so begins my dive into Saw IV in the Jigsaw Files. My posts on the previous three entries are here:

One general feeling I couldn’t escape is that the fourth time is not the charm (if such a word can be used in this franchise). The time to entertain is through. It’s time to wallow in the mire of mostly uninspired new traps, limb splitting demises, and needless backstories and time shifts. The biggest flaw of all might be an over abundance of plot. Watching a Saw movie shouldn’t feel like keeping up with Lost. And I don’t care that two actors from that show were in the original.

Darren Lynn Bousman is back directing for the third time in a row and this is his final contribution. There’s new screenwriters in the mix with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The script picks a secondary character from II and III to play Jigsaw’s latest game. Officer Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is charged with saving Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) from doom. None of these law enforcement leads are particularly compelling. Rigg, according to Jigsaw, has a bit of a savior complex and his tests involve leaving behind nefarious types probably not worth rescuing.

Takes one to know one. After all, the dude with the ultimate savior complex is Jigsaw himself. And Saw IV delves deeper into his backstory that we weren’t sure we wanted. After seeing it, I’m sure of it. He does have an engineering background which explains some stuff, but his previous marriage to drug counselor Jill (Betsy Russell) isn’t all that engrossing. It helps explain his motivations, but does it matter at this point?

There are callbacks to previous pics and the most notable involves Donnie Wahlberg’s Detective Matthews. Last seen with a mangled foot courtesy of Amanda (Shawnee Smith), this detective’s story is finally given an icy closure (in an admittedly garishly effective moment). We also know that time is relative in the Sawmatic Universe and this plays into the anticipated twists in the final moments. It all feels more contrived than ever before. It’s now down to bland supporting players from better installments taking the lead and that contributes to an overall secondhand goods vibe.

I could go on with the dull plot points feasting on themselves and the tiresome traps, but seriously… how many damn tape recorders did Jigsaw own? He had to have been Best Buy or RadioShack’s most prolific customer/serial killer.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw V (2008)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

Perhaps I’m feeling like a glutton for punishment, but the upcoming release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw got me in a bloody nostalgic mood as we anticipate its premiere. Nearly 17 years after the low-budget original became one of the most profitable horror pics ever and spawned now eight sequels/reboots, I felt it was time to revisit the franchise.

Hence The Jigsaw Files where I will recap the series movie by movie. It naturally begins with the original Saw. Shot for a reported teensy budget of $1.2 million, it came out of nowhere in October 2004 to become a genre classic. So is it?

This marks the directorial debut of James Wan and he went on to be involved in numerous franchises. Some were of his own making (Insidious, The Conjuring). Others brought on his talents like in Furious 7 and Aquaman. Wan came up with the story along with Leigh Whannell, who has since helmed Upgrade and The Invisible Man (both critically acclaimed scare fests).

Most of you are familiar with the story. Whannell costars as Adam, a photographer who awakens in a dingy and feces covered washroom with Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). The duo soon discover that they are part of an elaborate game orchestrated by a serial killer who concocts these elaborate schemes. They have to figure out why they have been placed in such a foul setting and they only have hours to do so before their time expires.

The screenplay intersects their countdown with Detectives Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung) trying to figure out who this monster is. Saw is told in a non-linear fashion that isn’t totally clear until the climax. I had forgotten about the Lost TV series connection until my rewatch. Leung was the quirky medium Miles. Michael Emerson, who is involved in the mayhem happening here, is an Emmy winner for his brilliant portrayal of Ben Linus.

What’s striking about Saw upon another visit is that its meager budget limits some of the gore we became accustomed to in the sequels. Don’t get me wrong… it’s there, but not quite as prevalent. Elwes and Whannell get the most screen time (Glover apparently only shot for two days). Both actors have their moments of extreme overacting and I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Some may find this exercise humorless, but there’s some winking and nodding occurring in my estimation.

The other plot point that audiences might forget is that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw (who becomes this franchise’s Freddy, Jason, Michael… take your pick) plays a minimal role… kind of like Jason in the first Friday the 13th. This is, of course, until the surprise ending. And that ending is still one of the better twists in modern horror history. If you’re a stickler about it making sense… well, you might hurt your head deciding if it holds up to scrutiny. Yet it was effective when I first watched it and it still is today.

Saw is certainly not perfect. Its price tag limitations show, but even that adds to the B movie vibe. Wan shows right away why he’s become the in demand filmmaker he is now. And this Saw remains a cut above most of what followed and rightfully has the reputation that precedes it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw II (2005)…

The Hunt Box Office Prediction

After being pushed back several months due to its violent subject matter, Blumhouse’s thriller The Hunt debuts next weekend. Based loosely on the nearly century old story “The Most Dangerous Game”, the pic comes from director Craig Zobel. The cast includes Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, and Justin Hartley.

As is the case with most Blumhouse Productions, this is a low budget venture with a reported price tag of $15 million. Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost, HBO’s Watchmen, and numerous film scripts, has cowriting credit.

The satiric tale was originally scheduled for September of last year before being delayed following the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. The Friday the 13th reschedule could manage to capitalize on its past publicity, but I question whether it will. I believe The Hunt may not achieve double digits for its start.

The Hunt opening weekend prediction: $7.7 million

For my I Still Believe prediction, click here:

For my Bloodshot prediction, click here:

For my My Spy prediction, click here: