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Saw 4

Back in the 1980’s the arrival of another Friday the 13th and Elm Street film almost became an annual event. The dosage of teenage terror provided good scares despite the decline in ongoing sequels. Saw 4 continues this tradition with yet another entry in as many years. It also unfortunately mirrors the diminishing quality of those endless franchises with more emphasis on gore over genuine story telling.
The death of serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) still hasn’t stopped his wicked reign of terror. Having a cunning back-up plan, Jigsaw has found a new recruit more than willing to continue his black mantle. With officers including Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) sifting through his crimes of hate, they discover his new evil agenda. His latest game involves SWAT Commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent) who has ninety minutes to save his trapped colleagues. Entering a burlesque circus of horrors, Rigg finds that Jigsaw is a deadly earnest ringmaster. Even death seemingly hasn’t stopped Jigsaw from loosening his satanic grip on his victims.
Being the only current high profile franchise that churns films out annually, the Saw films have carved out their own niche. Saw 4 continues to play to its’ strength of strong characterisation laced with shocking thrills. This is negated however with a logic defying script that relies on the short attention span of its audience. Whenever the story focuses on the genesis of Jigsaw’s crimes, the film proves ghoulishly fascinating. Tobin Bell’s charisma and acting in these scenes proves an ongoing franchise always has to have a strong villain. Bell’s Jigsaw is a worthy addition to the horror hall of fame.
Things become unstuck when new characters enter the frame. They aren’t as interesting or as well acted, with a screenplay that has a ‘been there done that’ feel. The horrific set pieces are technically proficient, but tend to turn the franchise away from its slasher roots into more gruesome splatter territory. The notion of having Jigsaw being even deadlier in death is certainly intriguing, but it fails to cover the scripts’ increasingly ludicrous plot inconsistencies.
Saw 4 isn’t as bad as the worst Friday the 13th sequel, but not up to the strong scripting of previous entries. With the announcement that Saws 5 and 6 are currently in the works it appears this franchise may become the longest and profitable series in the horror cannon. One cannot help but feel however that even with this entry the producers are flogging a corpse.
Rating out of 10: 4

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