Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Seven Days of Sawdom: Day Four

Hello, all, and welcome back to my retrospective of the Saw franchise. On this fourth day of Sawdom, things begin to change quite a bit, and by that I mean it takes what it had in the previous installment and pretty much runs with it.

Is this a good thing or not? Well...

First, the disclaimer:

There will be spoilers for extremely plot-sensitive details from the previous Saw movies. If you have not seen the first two installments of the franchise, turn back now and watch them before reading the review. You can't say I didn't warn you when your franchise is spoiled.
With this, I'll bring the topic to today's movie...

Saw IV

People keep dying around Police Lieutenant Rigg (Lyriq Bent), so Jigsaw puts him to a test. He now has to learn to think like Jigsaw in order to save police detectives Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) while encountering various other people that are in need of salvation as Jigsaw sees it, while we learn the past of the now-deceased Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), and what drove him into his time as a serial killer...

...And that's where it starts to fall apart.

This latest movie in the franchise is as slick and gory as the previous installments were. It's all tough to watch, it's all really well-done, and it's all competent. But, the problem is that it's more or less taken the torture porn idea and run with it as far as it can.

And now, it's not scary so much as it is a little tough to watch. The gore stops being scary when it's the only thing that's focused on. Yes, there's Rigg's trap, but now it seems the focus has shifted from the human suffering in the equation to how badly can people get fucked up by stuff. And this really ramps down the atmospheric building that occurred throughout the last three installments. And it's no longer truly horror as a result. It doesn't help that we don't really care enough about half the people that get messed up. It's part of the movie's point, but when the going really gets bad, it gets tough to sympathize with the people we're supposed to.

What also changes is that the characters don't get developed too thoroughly throughout this installment. It takes away a smaller piece of the tension, as we don't really get any reasons why we should care for them other than 'they're in these traps, and they must be helped'. Nothing more, though nothing less either. It makes for a very mixed package, to be sure.

It doesn't help that this movie tries to cram a little too much into its running time. I felt the whole subplot detailing Jigsaw's history was a little pointless, seeing as how it didn't really add that much to the movie. (Also, there was that prequel comic that sadly got retconned straight to hell by this installment...) The amount of information this movie had was also distracting from the main test that was being gone through in the game.

So overall? Saw IV represents a big step down for the franchise: its concentration shifts from the people suffering through Jigsaw's traps and trials to what actually happens to people in the traps. It's not pretty, and it distracts from the tension greatly as well, meaning that the tightness the previous movies once had is instead replaced by a strange feeling of disgust. And that is not the kind of tension that makes a good horror movie.


This movie was very disappointing.

Right. Now, for thoughts on the franchise?

Well... Saw IV is the first truly bad Saw movie in my eyes. The first three were actually pretty good, so I was pretty shocked that it took this long for the franchise to truly get to the place where it's all about the torture porn. And this is the point where it gets pretty bad. Odd how it'll ultimately be smack dab in the middle of the franchise when it got bad. I'm almost tempted to take the first three films and hold them in a vault, proclaiming the first three movies to not exist.

This... brings me to another point that I'm beginning to notice; the amount of traps in these movies is beginning to get on borderline ludicrous. At the end of the movie, it's revealed that the events of both the third and fourth installments are taking place at the same time. That... would require a lot of planning, and if so, John Kramer probably should've gone into a different profession since that would take a ridiculous amount of brainpower to engineer something this big. But it's beginning to get ludicrous, and I fear that the rest of the franchise will only get more and more convoluted in this regard in terms of plot and how many traps Jigsaw can operate at once.

And as for the gore, I think I know where the franchise might be heading in terms of this by this point. Each installment has only gotten gorier, and I have a feeling the remaining installments won't be much different in this regard.

But we'll see. After all, we do have three days left, and now that we're at the midway point of the franchise, anything can happen. But we'll see what happens.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, at the sunset of the Fourth Day of Sawdom. I'll see you guys next time, and I hope you'll join me on the Fifth Day of Sawdom when I review Saw V.

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