Over the course of two sequels, the Saw franchise took a novel, if distasteful, idea and basically tortured it to death. While the clever, low-budget execution of the original's Darwinian premise - kill or be killed - commands a queasy respect, its creators, James Wan and Leigh Whannel, should have rejoiced in their unexpected success and moved on.
The marketplace, however, had other plans, spawning a host of imitators and now Saw IV, bloody proof that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) may be dead, but his well of corporeal abuses has yet to run dry. Opening with an unwarranted shot of Jigsaw's genitals - laid out, like the rest of him, on a mortuary slab - the movie wastes no time plunging us into his autopsy.
"He's seen better days," mutters a technician, and I would have to agree.
Unfortunately, death is only a minor obstacle to Jigsaw, whose flayed stomach coughs up his trademark tape-recorded guide to dank dungeons and moldy motel rooms filled with elaborately trussed victims. Appearing frequently in flashback - as, Lord help us, an expectant father - Bell is more visible in this episode, mask-free and enjoying the opportunity to flex his thespian muscles.
Less enthusiastic, however, is the Gilmore Girls alumnus Scott Patterson, who, as the onetime proprietor of Luke's Diner and now a hapless FBI profiler, can only be wondering why his eatery ever had to close.
DIRECTED BY: DARREN LYNN BOUSMAN
STARRING: TOBIN BELL (JIGSAW JOHN), COSTAS MANDYLOR (HOFFMAN), SCOTT PATTERSON (AGENT STRAHM), BETSY RUSSELL (JILL), LYRIQ BENT (RIGG), ATHENA KARKANIS (AGENT PEREZ)
RUNNING TIME: 95 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY