Dead & Buried
Saw VI is the latest chapter in a story that should have ended after the third movie. The series began with a brain, which made it hurt doubly so as it descended into redundancy. In its defense, Saw VI has more in mind than existing for its own sake. By connecting central themes to one of today's most hot-button issues, the film brings more relevance to the franchise than it's seen in ages. This is the first Saw movie in years that didn't leave me going, "Ugh..." at the end.
We last left Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as he secured the status of heir to the late John Kramer (Tobin Bell), alias Jigsaw. After dispatching the final witness to his madness, Hoffman is free to continue Jigsaw's legacy with the most devious and personal game yet. The primary figure this time is William (Peter Outerbridge), a health care rep notorious for intensely scrutinizing claims. After years of indirectly choosing who dies nd who lives, William is about to taste his own medicine via a series of gruesome trials, a la Jigsaw. However, Hoffman isn't out of the woods yet, for the authorities are onto his deadly double life, forcing him to cover his tracks long enough to see the latest game through.
Any horror film that tries to enforce a lesson has its work cut out for it. I understand why people might be skeptical of flicks attempting to do this while some poor slob carves himself up like a turkey, but done right, the experience feels a little more rounded. Saw VI's undertones are a thin beef, a rejiggered take on the standard Jigsaw philosophy. Yet just enough is tinkered with to perk things up for those who've followed the madman's tangled web since day one. Choice has always been a big part of the franchise, though the idea resonates well with someone like William in the spotlight. Because he's someone who decides the fates of others for a living, it's interesting to see the traps mirror this, as he's often faced with being able to spare only one life over another. This lays the groundwork for the film's two cents regarding the current health care kafuffle while providing a wry and fairly effective nugget of commentary.
Still, most viewers won't come to see Saw VI whip out ye olde soapbox, which is why the film offers plenty of grue to spare. The change in villain comes with even more twisted logic; it's not so much a matter of if someone dies but who, as someone's guaranteed to bite the big one no matter what. Although not as suspenseful, the movie boasts challenges that earn their shocks without being overly complex. The traps are mighty nasty, including one meant to leave its victims breathless in more ways than one. Jigsaw may be gone and relegated to flashbacks, but Tobin Bell keeps his mystique alive with a performance that provides a bit more insight into how he became one of horror's heaviest hitters. I dare not speak of other figures who drift in and out of the picture for fear of spoilers.
Do I miss the modesty of the inaugural Saw movies? As ironic as the notion sounds, I do. I miss the rush I felt seeing the original for the first time. However, although it's a hesitant recommendation, I found Saw VI a fulfilling enough excursion back to the franchise's roots -- one that leaves me hoping Jigsaw will soon receive a long overdue burial.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and language.)