Previously: Saw III: Jumping the Shark    With the success of Saw III (arguably the best film in the Saw series) hot on its heels, Saw IV...

SAW IV: Remaking a Sequel

With the success of Saw III (arguably the best film in the Saw series) hot on its heels, Saw IV tried to replicate the success of its predecessor with better traps and more interesting plot lines. It fails on several of these points, not the least being its mediocre casting. The man at the center of the action is Rigg, the SWAT leader from the previous films, but his character is not compelling enough to warrant interest. His relationship with his wife recycles that of Dr. Gordon, but without the emotional anguish and Peter, the FBI agent seems stuck in an angry cop drama. His passionate outbursts are at odds with the film’s attempt at quiet atmosphere.

Speaking of horrible casting, Hoffman does not live up to the title of Jigsaw’s apprentice and is simply not a compelling replacement. Through there is some debate as to whether the traps of Saw IV are masterminded by Jigsaw (the film runs concurrently with Saw III which can give the viewer a serious case of vertigo) I tend to think that the traps of Saw IV are Hoffman’s because they do not fit Jigsaw’s “hurt to heal” mentality.

The games of Saw IV demand that Rigg “let go” of his obsession for finding his colleague, detective Matthew. But Rigg's performance fails to take a cue from Danny Glover, and his “obsession” rings hollow, hurting his motivation for the remainder of the film. The transitions that Boussman mastered in Saw III are also discarded in favor of CG effects that butt one scene into another. The effect is jerky and awkward, the opposite of the sweeping transitions in Saw III.

The foundational weakness of Saw IV lies in the logic behind the traps. The film eventually degrades into a Friday the 13th gorefest and the killing lacks any reason. This is true of a crime scene tech who get’s a projectile barb through the head and Peter’s partner who falls victim to an exploding doll. The light at the end of the tunnel, trap-wise, is the school house trap with the abusive husband and complacent wife. The two are joined together by metal rods pierced through their bodies. Removal of the rods will kill the husband, as they traverse vital blood vessels, but the wife will survive. Make your choice indeed.

The straw that breaks Saw IV’s back is the ending. Saw IV tried to replicate the narrative pattern of Saw III, with a central character facing trails in order to let go of an unhealthy obsession. While the twist of Saw III left plenty of jaws hanging agape, Saw IV presents a twist that’s obvious from the start. The only way for Rigg to save Detective Matthews is to let go, and it’s his stubborn persistence that leads to the other man's death. As the music swells and the “reveal” unfolded all I could think was: "Don’t pull crap out of hat and tell me it’s a rabbit."

Up Next: Saw V


  1. Note that SAW IV is the first 'appearance' of those two knobs from Project Greenlight's FEAST as screenwriters for this installment and for the rest of the series.

  2. No way! I had no clue. Now wonder it was so bad!

  3. You know, when I saw Saw IV in the theaters, I absolutely enjoyed it. For me, it was the first time I actually cared about a character in the series. I found Riggs sympathetic, in part because we'd seen him in the past two films as a guy that actually cared about someone other than himself.

    In hindsight, the film has a lot of problems. Jigsaw's motivation against this guy--he tries too hard to be a good cop and that's bad?--don't really make sense, and the timeline twist is ripped out of Saw 2. Still, I found it fun to see Mark Walberg used in such a ridiculous way and thought the Costas Mandylor twist was wacky enough to be interesting.

  4. On another note, is it just me or has Shawnee Smith become a horrible actor?

    You remember like her first gig in the 1988 remake (along side Kevin Dillon) THE BLOB..?

    She was awesome in that film - co-written by Frank Darabont.

  5. Good gosh, it runs as the same time as Saw 3?! I never got past 3 and Saw is like the Lost of horror movies, this confusing giant thing I am way behind. Hopefully in 2020 when Platinum Dunes films the Saw remake we get a boxed set so I can go back and try to figure this out.
    Maybe it'll come with a map/diagram thingy.

  6. WW,

    She was also in the Grudge 2. The movie was so bad she looked good.

    a SAW playbook would be helpful