This review of Saw VI is part of the Saw Franchise Retrospective series in anticipation of this month’s release of Jigsaw.
It was only a matter of time before Saw went socially conscious, and it does it in the only way it knows how: by pitting a smarmy insurance company suit (Peter Outerbridge) in a warehouse full of amusement park death traps.
Before this, however, we get the signature cold open trap, which is as silly and ridiculous as you would think. One thing to note about this scene that makes it more than merely a lazy and audience-baiting torture introduction is the score, which times itself to the hacking of a butcher knife in an effectively humorous way. It’s good to know that composer Charlie Clouser is in on the joke. He is easily the best thing to come out of this franchise.
Why Saw VI has been cut more slack than the other Saw sequels is beyond me. Perhaps it is the re-positioning of Tobin Bell into the center of the nefarious game, but he still isn’t around to do the leg work. Costas Mandylor and Betsy Russell continue to hold that role, and they couldn’t be duller. There is one scene between Betsy Russell and a journalist character (Samantha Lemole) that has some of the flattest line delivery ever.
This fifth sequel does have more overall coherence to the over-arching plotline of the Saw series than the previous two installments, which makes it closer to being an actual film as opposed to a series of set pieces constructed to indulge in grotesquerie.
However, the insistence on dragging out the story of this franchise is ludicrous. There is no need for the sixth film to flashback to the earliest installments of the franchise. None of these flashbacks provide anything fruitful, they only extend Bell’s screentime because he was the franchise’s only truly compelling component.
What is really farcical about these flashbacks is Bell’s John Kramer going toe-to-toe with the insurance company, proselytizing about the need for universal healthcare. How topical. If the continuous political debate over healtcare in the U.S. wasn’t enough to get your attention, then surely Saw VI will show you light.
It is strange how seriously this film takes itself. There is no mystery left. No suspense. No intrigue. All that is putting butts in seats is the exploitation film-level fetishization of violence (less butts in the case of this film, considering its competition in the theaters was Paranormal Activity). Still, the screenwriters feel the need to tie this torture porn franchise into politics.
Because what’s scarier: high premiums or a shotgun carousel? How about a sequel that leans so heavily on previous films that it is about 50% flashback.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)