Monday, November 2, 2009



Over the past several years, the annual SAW assault has become a Fall standard. A redband trap scene is shown online a few weeks before the movie is released. In addition there is a heavy advertising blitz and a highly publicized blood drive. The 2009 installment of the SAW franchise is no exception to this pattern.

SAW VI differs from the previous installments in that it gives much less backstory. So a n00b cannot step into SAW VI and expect to be given much of a clue as to what is going on. And this matters because SAW VI is a violent collage of all of its predecessors and a multiple of recently created, unanswered questions. I say “recently created” because the questions that are raised in SAW VI weren’t apparent in previous episodes of the series. SAW VI is relatively air-tight plot-wise. Any air that might have escaped previously has been contained in this episode and exploited.

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has been dead for 2 movies, but the connections that he made during his life are still being explored. What comes across more in this episode than any other episode of SAW is how much of a multi-tasking killer Jigsaw was. He was apparently locking people in traps while playing headgames with at least three other people, all while brainstorming/creating other traps and managing his small crew of converts. For a cancer patient who could barely breathe, Jigsaw is a humbling example for us all of maximizing human potential.

If you discount the value of life, you might just find yourself in one of his steel traps. This is the logic of Jigsaw. The traps throughout the series force his victims to consider things such as forgiveness, addiction, and mercy. Some of these are explored in SAW VI as well, but this version forces a confrontation with the concept of greed throughout.

For the first time since the series started, it is extremely obvious that SAW VI has bitten a huge, unoriginal chunk out of a different, superior film. It isn’t a serious spoiler for me to explain the very first trap of the film and how it links completely with a different (similarly themed) movie, but if you wish to remain pure, I have to warn you that there will be mild spoilers in the next few paragraphs.

The first trap features two loan agents guilty of giving loans to clients who could never possibly pay them back. The zeitgeist is palpable if you have spent even 30 seconds listening to the news in the past year. The trap? Place more of your flesh on the scale than your opponent, or else two screws drill fatally into your skull. Right out of the gate, Eddie (Marty Moreau) begins sawing at his ample love handle. Simone (Tanedra Howard) sees Eddie’s human steaks flop on his side of the triple beam and is forced to consider how she will compete with such weight. Lieutenant Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is running the trap this time, hiding behind Billy the puppet while using a voice scrambler to make himself sound like Jigsaw. This scene is fully reminiscent of David Fincher’s SE7EN. It is specifically lifted from the film’s GREED passage in which a corrupt lawyer is forced to extract a pound of his flesh MERCHANT OF VENICE style. His dead body shows that he cut his flesh from his love handle. The beauty of the SAW VI homage to this scene from SE7EN is that greed is the offense being punished in both films.

If you don’t know your SAW movies, I suggest you take a run at Netflix and brush up before seeing this installment. A lot of the characters from previous films and most specifically, those from the past three are really at play here. The box that Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell) was given is opened and examined. More of Amanda’s (Shawnee Smith) history is revealed too. SAW VI is a SAW fan’s movie.

The fact that SAW VI is so embedded with the previous SAW episodes is actually a breath of fresh air. Very little of this film is over-explained in order to help those unversed in the franchise. This is one of the film’s strengths and a tribute to how strong the filmmakers think that their fanbase is.

This episode ends with another twist. It is a twist that demonstrates that Jigsaw’s clutches from beyond the grave are compromised and slipping. It is also a twist that gives the upcoming SAW VII and SAW VIII more than just a little grist.

SAW VI is extremely satisfying if you have been following the series. For a series that has been unrepentantly backwards-engineered (do you really think that they thought this far ahead when Cary Ewles cut his foot off in SAW 1?), SAW completely delivers. The team of writers (Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) isn’t fumbling the ball as seems to be characteristic of other horror franchises. SAW VI holds up in the theater and will be strong for multiple DVD viewings prior to next year’s SAW VII.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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