Saw IV

Tortureholics Rejoice—The Rest of Us Roll Our Eyes -- 1.5 stars

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. October 2007, USA. Rated R: 92 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 10/30/2007)

Do you enjoy plotting new ways to brutally torture everyday people with minor personality flaws? Have you devised the perfect camera angle to show blood spraying out of an amputated stump of flesh and bone? Can you describe an autopsy in perfect detail? Then mail your résumé to Twisted Pictures, because Saw IV made damn clear that Saw franchise creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell intend on pumping out their annual formulaic “torture porn” flicks indefinitely.

What’s the formula, you might ask? It’s pretty simple. 1. A masked serial killer named Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) or one of his assistants abduct people. 2. The captured prisoners watch a video or play an audio tape that explains how they can shed the complex torture contraptions preventing their escape. 3. Each victim kills him/herself or someone else in ways that will elicit visceral reactions from the audience (typically wincing, gagging, dry-heaving). 4. Jigsaw justifies “testing” the captives with his “tools,” often rationalizing his crimes by claiming he didn’t kill them—they killed themselves. If all of that makes sense to you, you’ll love Saw IV. In this particular installment, Jigsaw continues to play his games from beyond the grave. After failing to prevent the deaths of several fellow policemen, SWAT Commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent) takes it upon himself to avenge his comrades. In the process, he becomes another tragic pawn in Jigsaw’s scheme—and perhaps an accomplice.

Watching the Saw series is like chewing the same gum for hours. It starts out as a fun change of routine, but ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Staring at empty eye sockets, limbless torsos, and debrained skulls can only be exciting for so long until it gets boring.