Saw IV marks the third and final entry in the franchise to be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, it is also my favourite film in the franchise aside from the original masterpiece. Following the deaths of John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his accomplice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), Lieutenant Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is put through a series of tests whilst Agents Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Lindsay Perez (Athena Karkanis) join Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) in investigating the remnants of Jigsaw’s latest game. There are many reasons why this is the one that stands out above the many other Saw films for me; it delivers on the terrifying and gruesome traps you expect to see, develops the mystery further, introduces some great (relatively) new characters, and executes two of the biggest twists in the franchise in an epic finale.
Lets go into the main players in this instalment and the performances behind their characters. After spending Saw II and III relatively on the sidelines we see Lt. Rigg finally take the spotlight and be the one we follow through a series of brutal and gruesome tests. This works very well for the film as it gives you a character to care about that it doesn’t need to spend time setting up beforehand. This is also the first film where Detective Hoffman is a prominent figure and here he is just such a great intriguing and fascinating character to watch. He has a key part in the story within the Saw franchise and his setup here is done so in a very well executed manner. Costas Mandylor plays the role incredibly with some creepy undertones that has the character stand out really well. Scott Patterson makes his debut as Agent Strahm and his character is a breath of intelligent (sort of) fresh air for the franchise.
After a very brief cameo in Saw III, Betsy Russell makes her debut as John Kramer’s ex, Jill Tuck. Personally, I like the character, she serves her purpose in the story well and is believable enough to fit in with the rest of the movie. Some of her line delivery can be a little off but at this point that isn’t what ur looking for in a Saw film. One thing you should be very used to by now are the presence of flashbacks and they are used extensively here once again. These scenes predominantly focus on John Kramer’s past, where we get to see his relationship with Jill and get introduced to a character named Cecil (Billy Otis) and his importance to this story. I love the flashbacks, they can get confusing sometimes if you aren’t paying full attention but the amount of insight into past and present events is well worth it. One of the very odd choices Bousman made in the editing of these flashbacks is to blend the flashback scene with the following modern day scene with ‘smooth’ scene transitions. It’s jarring as fuck when Bousman blows his load, executing this transition like 30 times and it’s the only real downside to this movie. But overall I thought Bousman directed the film very well for his final entry in the franchise.
So in the end, at this point in the franchise you know what you want out of these films, whether it be story, blood, or gore it has it all. The way the story develops within this film and how it all ties up very nicely in the end I absolutely love and the payoff is fucking great. The traps are here, the blood is there, the gruesome and disturbing traps are present and this is the high point of the franchise (beyond the first film)….. and you know what that means: it’s all downhill from here.
Heavy SPOILERS for Saw IV to follow….
So as it turns out I just cannot talk about this movie without talking about the twists at the end and how they blew my mind when I first saw them play out. Firstly I will talk about the most impressive of the two twists and that is how you find out in the end that the events of this film don’t take place after the events of Saw III, in fact everything sans the opening autopsy scene is going down at the same time as Saw III. And then at the end of this movie Lt. Rigg and Agent Strahm make their way to Gideon Meatpacking Plant and are in the building, only meters away from where Jeff Denlon is undertaking his trials. And they even show how Strahm was literally two meters off camera when Jeff decided to kill Jigsaw in the finale of Saw III. And they go so far as to reveal the fate of Jeff which isn’t good as he is instantly shot and killed by Strahm. But seriously though, the way they managed to pull this off is fantastic and I love when films can do this. So by putting that autopsy scene at the beginning of the film you naturally assume that any scene that comes after that is in chronological order. Successful misdirection is so simple to achieve at times. The success of this twist pays off even on repeat viewings, especially in the short scene early on where you learn that ‘another’ doctor has gone missing from the hospital (Lynn Denlon), but at the time you think it must be another doctor AFTER her. Also in that same scene Hoffman mentions that the stuffed animal he is holding is for a little girl, that is the same animal you see Jeff’s daughter holding very briefly at the end of Saw III. It all ties in so well and I loved that.
So the second twist that occurs still had me shook but is the lesser of the two reveals. Just like they did at the end of Saw II they pulled the hidden accomplice card and revealed that Detective Mark Hoffman, the man who spent half the film investigating crime scenes and the other half supposedly in a Jigsaw trap was John Kramer’s second accomplice. I mean, if I had seen this film now that i’m older I may have been able to suss out this reveal a little better, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was blown away by this reveal the first time. You also get the quick reveal that it was Hoffman who wrote the note for Amanda that made her cry but we still don’t know what the note said. Another thing i want to quickly mention is the very short and random Saw II character cameo where Addison Corday (Emmanuelle Vaugier) comes up to (pre-Jigsaw) John Kramer in his car and talks to him briefly before leaving. I don’t get the purpose of this scene other than for Saw fans to say “Oh hey, it’s her…..”. It doesn’t relate to why Jigsaw selected her for his trap because we already know why he selected her. It was just weird unnecessary scene.