The games have only just started, and the twists haven’t even begun to come to fruition just yet. Many people ask, if you know that Saw is an awful series, why do you enjoy it? Simple, I like karmic justice, which these movies are especially good at delivering when at their peak, and this set of movies has more than its share of beautifully ironic traps.
This set of three also has my favorite lead of any Saw movie, which yeah, is another weak point of a few of these, but the characters that work really work such as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, Detective Eric Matthews, and my personal favorite, Special Agent Peter Strahm. Once again, these are not standard reviews, these will cover spoilers and feature my post-rewatch analysis of the movies. All that settled, I want to play a game.
Movie 1: Saw IV (2007) Review
We begin with confirmation that yes, there was no body double, no hallucinogens, no secret twins, no clones, and no time travel, John Kramer is indeed dead. The film once again uses this excellent framing device as a smart way to screw with the chronology we as an audience are privy to and ultimately expect a linear narrative to unfold from this point forward.
A lot of this movie picks up the pieces of Saw III most important of all being the death of Detective Carey from the opening of that film being the impetus for the events of this one, as we follow Rigg as the lead after he’s been present since the second movie as what’s essentially a background player. Here he takes center stage while new in-town FBI agents, Perez and Strohm investigate a potential second accomplice after things start to not add up and their branch liaison, Carey, is found dead with the belief that a detective is in danger.
Unlike its predecessors, this one doesn’t spend a ton of time on the characters escaping the traps, but rather on Rigg being sent on what’s a glorified scavenger hunt from Jigsaw to “not save people” in order to save the somehow still alive Det. Matthews who’s been captured for the last six months, alongside Det. Hoffman who was recently put on the Jigsaw case.
Of course, Rigg fails the test because he’s a good person and he wants to help people, apathy just isn’t in the cards for him. After witnessing his “punishment” in seeing Matthews again only for him to be killed right in front of him again, the true successor of Jigsaw reveals himself; Detective Hoffman, who believe it or not, kind of takes over this franchise through Saw VII. This one is, fine? It’s not awful but it’s very forgettable comparative to what came before and what comes next.
Movie 2: Saw V (2008) Review
Continuing immediately after the breakneck reveal that the main plot of IV happened concurrent with Saw III, Agent Strahm kills Jeff in a frenzy and then is ambushed by Hoffman who puts him in a trap designed to drown him while standing upright.
In one of the coolest character moments in any of these movies, and why I love this character so much, beyond just his complete and total dismissal of the ego and rhetoric of Kramer and Hoffman he gives himself a tracheotomy with just a pen in his pocket so he can breathe while trapped, which is just such a good combination of practical, creative, and really intelligent that makes me love these movies.
This movie is unique in that it doubles both as a retroactive origin story for Hoffman, the apprentice, but also as an investigation into him by Strahm in the present, all the while the trap subplot has one of the most creative ways to torture people by using their own selfishness against them.
I need to stress that these movies are not pleasing to look at, but man, they have some of the most energetic and frankly completely deranged edits I’ve seen in most anything, like the quick cuts, the fast shakiness, it’s so out there that I have to respect it in a strange way, it’s an identity wholly it’s own that more than makes up for the minuscule budget.
Strahm is ultimately the most successful protagonist, he finds proof, confronts Hoffsaw… gets punished for not playing by his rules and then gets his name dragged through the mud in death. An entry that’s just okay is a weird hallmark for this era of the franchise, and while not bad by Saw standards, it just drags for me personally.
Movie 3: Saw VI (2009) Review
Full disclosure, this is where the traps peak for the series, between all nine presently released entries, they all are memorable, twisted, and insanely creative from top to bottom, from the shotgun carousel beloved by fans to the oxygen crusher, to the beautifully climactic acid bath.
The narrative is kind of what you’d expect at this point, John’s Ex-Wife, Jill Tuck dealing with carrying out John’s will of a test for Hoffman, Hoffman trying to cover up his identity as Jigsaw (what are we on, like the third person to wear the name, and then there’s Logan in Jigsaw which is both before and after this), and for the first and strangely last time, Saw tackles a topical event in this case the 2008 recession and the affordable care act.
Which honestly, works to the movie’s benefit as a purveyor of a twisted sense of justice that only this series can provide in it’s blatant in-your-face and over-the-top way. Similarly, the lead this time around is an executive at an insurance firm who’s written a policy and subsequent formula that’s harmed countless deserving people, and while he does seem remorseful for what he’s done.
I like that he doesn’t get off scot-free, I like that because of the callousness he once held so dear, the emotional recoil that created is what ultimately doomed him, because ironically enough he was motivated by his own emotions throughout this labyrinth of horrors to save his family, and cleverly the film redirects you into thinking that Tara and Brent are that family, and the reporter, Pamela was dragged along as collateral by Hoffman, but no, it’s the other way around.
This is without exaggeration, one of the best in the series, the characters really work, the traps work, and while the JJ Abrams-style mystery box (in this case, a literal mystery box among others) gets exhausting fast, it’s a small small factor in an otherwise awesome time.
Generally, these aren’t as good as the Kramer trilogy, but they have their moments that make them shine all the same, especially when we do see Tobin Bell in these movies he makes every ounce of his screentime more than count.
The traps are upped to be bigger and better than ever, and for the most part, they work when not leading to poor digital effects on severed limbs or digitally inserted gore. It’s crazy that as soon as John passed the series started to get more and more insane, but trust me, folks, you ain’t Saw nothing yet.
Enjoy the read? Check out Kyle’s first instalment: Saw-Trospective Part I: Kramer Trilogy Review (‘Saw’, ‘Saw II’, ‘Saw III’)