SAW VI (2009)
D. Kevin Greutert
I'm willing to go to bat for the SAW films. While I thought Pt 5 was terrible, and Pt 4 not much better, I've still defended the SAW movies pretty widely and will continue to do so. Horror fans in our age group LOVE to shit on them, then turn around and fall over themselves about how great the original Friday the 13th and Halloween sequels were. What it really is, is a generational thing. We give our old school loves a pass, even though they are dumb as dirt, but shit on the new favorites almost out of a sheer act of rebellion.
My thing is that the SAW series, for all it's faults, and there are a lot of them, are still among the most creative and interesting continuing horror franchise going today. All people see is the gore and "torture" but fail to notice that the series has an ongoing "philosophy" about taking responsibility for your own actions. Each entry (well the first three and this new one) are all about characters that have to realize, through coming close to death, that they need to take responsibility for something in their lives. Sometimes it is addiction, sometimes it is an all encompassing need for vengeance, sometimes it is how one's selfish actions hurt others.
The games have begun. This reminded me of the breathing treatments I have seen so many people have in the hospital recently.
The torture and pain are almost biblical penance for their crimes against the fellow man. Jigsaw is not even a serial killer, but a very creative anti-hero who shows far more compassion than any of the other characters in the films. The movies themselves work more like episodic TV than sequels like the old slasher films we grew up with, as each entry divulges more details, more character development and more plot twists. Casual viewers and more importantly, those who just like to stand on the outside and throw stones, claim that all there is to the series are set pieces of people being tortured. But when the SAW series is at its best (part 3 and this one in my opinion) there is a helluva a lot more meat to chew on.
SAW VI opens with two new people in a trap. One obese man in one cage and a thin woman in another. Via pre-taped video they are told that they are to fill a scale between the caged 9via large plastic tubes) with their own flesh within 60 seconds of the giant metal bolts attached to their heads will detonate and be pounded into their skulls. Seems they worked for a large corporation that gave loans out to poor people that in turn had interest rates that made the loans impossible to pay back. Thus took everything from these people. Now these two are being made to judge themselves for what they have done to others. Naturally the fat man goes for his meaty love handles and carves them off, but the woman realizes her limbs have more weight value...
The movie proper begins with Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandalor with his lips permanently pursed in his only thought configuration) working his way out of the glass cage he encased himself in at the end of Pt V when he killed Special Agent Strahm in the compacting room (his squished corpse makes a special appearance). Hoffman is setting about finishing his work his has taken up since Jigsaw died. this time targeting the head of a Health Insurance company that specializes in fucking over their policy holders. Seems that this company (like pretty much ALL health insurance companies) has a staff trained to find loopholes and pre-existing conditions so they don't have to help or pay out when they are needed most. This head of the company even has a mathematical equation he has specially developed that ways human life value against the bottom line. The bottom line wins every time. Seems Jigsaw's Widow's methadone clinic was partially funded by this joker at one point, AND Jigsaw had this company as insurance when he found out he originally had cancer and wanted to get an experimental treatment.
They promptly dropped him all together when they found out he was going to attempt treatment that might actually cure him. So before he died he laid out plans that put this company and the employees that have destroyed the lives of so many people over the years directly into the cross hairs of his life or death manias. Leaving Detective Hoffman and his wife to carry them out.
Many of the questions that have been unanswered in the previous entries are answered this time. What was in the big box Jigsaw left to his wife? What was that letter Amanda read in part 3? How about the significance of the audio cassette in part 4? Lots of minute details from throughout the series find their way back into the plot fold this time out making this entry a very rewarding and satisfying experience. Unlike part 5 which just felt like you were spinning your wheels for ninety minutes, this one makes you feel like you've stuck it out for six movies for a reason. Not just to rehash the same crap movie after movie, but to actually see a story arch through from part two to part six. Like a mini-series on cable or something.
The series does have its detriments though. For one the acting has never been a strong suit. Tobin Bell as Jigsaw is terrific, has been from day one and has manged to really infuse the character with a sense of loss and tragedy. He is the real center of the series and they made a great casting choice with him. Shawnee Smith as Amanda was smart casting as well, she does a good job as the formerly heroin addicted assistant that struggles with her allegiances. She is only in pt VI a couple of scenes but it is nice to have her back. Betsy Russell former tits and laughs 80's actress from such classics as TOMBOY and AVENGING ANGEL made her first appearance in pt IV and looks terrific, especially for a woman her age, but her acting is just as still today as it was back then.
She's not terrible, but she isn't great either. Probably doesn't hurt she's married to one of the series' regular directors. Then there is Costas Mandalor... Another heart throb from a couple of decades ago. Remember the teenie bopper gangster pic MOBSTERS? Of course you don't, I only do because I worked at a theater and projected the damn thing. It was him, Christian Slater, and a couple of other nineties era dorks. Well, that was the height of Mandalor's ability I think. I've felt he was miscast here from the beginning. He's like watching a plank of wood.
I've also had issues with the directorial style and editing of the series too. That hyper stylized flash cutting that they use, especially in the torture/kill scenes. As the series has progressed it has become less and less prominent, but it has always gotten on my nerves. For me it takes me right out of the moment. Perhaps that is the reason they do it, because the actual violence often being portrayed would be unbearable if they concentrated on it with out that hyper stylized, distancing effect. All I know is it distracts me and reminds me I'm watching a movie. Its weird cause there have been what, four different directors and all of them have been forced to do it for continuity.
But with all that said, this entry is easily the best one since pt III if not THE best one to date. The whole story attacking the insurance companies is completely relevant and makes a bold and hearty statement about the faceless nature of corporate killing in the name of the bottom line. I'm sure the last thing die hard Liberals want on their side is the new SAW movie, but here it is anyway! I would say it is actually making a more humanist statement actually. Plus as a series capper this entry brings all the previous elements together and wraps them up neatly and nicely. There is an open ending, but not so much that they couldn't stop here and be done with it. All the questions are answered at this point. There is no need to go on now, except studio greed really. Plus for the gorehounds who just LOVE this stuff, it is still fairly intense in spreading around the red stuff. There is less interpersonal "torture" this time as the games scenarios are more aimed at making the characters make choices about other people's lives (hence the health care debate). There is an incredibly intense scene involving a carousel of people and a loaded shotgun that is probably among the best of the series. It isn't so gory, but the intensity of it is outstanding.
A lot of people have probably given up on the SAW series. Just as many people wont give it a chance because it is cool to do so. To those people, just remember when we were kids, the adults wouldn't watch a Freddy movie or Friday the 13th movie for the very same reasons.
Reviews © Andy Copp