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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Jenna (Keri Russell) works as a waitress at Joe’s Pie Shop having a knack for making fantastic pies. Bored with life and in a loveless marriage to selfish Earl (Jeremy Sisto), she searches for a way out of her listless routine. Discovering she is pregnant, this sets off an emotional chain reaction as she confronts choices she has made. An affair with her doctor slowly brings her out of her shell and sparks within the flame of life. In between making the best pies imaginable, Jenna’s life changing decisions is one soufflĂ© she is determined not to ruin.
Writer, Director and Co-Star Adrienne Shelly presents a quirky romantic comedy that has genuine bite. The trio of waitresses at Joe’s shop form a unique family who initially accept their lot in life. What comes out is the need to further enrich one’s life and find genuine truth in relationships. Each character’s romantic entanglements hide their own unhappiness and their need to escape their humdrum existence. Jenna is more than just ‘a waitress’ but someone who still has a lot to offer when given a chance to shine.
Whilst parts of the film suffer from too much exposition, the central message remains constant. The need to re-invent them-selves and not adhere to conformity is one the cast deliver with relish. Keri Russell makes a beguiling lead and portrays a strong charm. Jenna’s willingness to break free of her mundane shackles is well realised by Russell. Her unconventional romance with the doctor, played by Nathan Fillion, provide many amusing moments without being too far fetched. Andy Griffith’s role as old Joe gives the veteran actor one of his best recent performances. It’s interesting that Griffith appears in this, as the film almost has the same tone as his earlier TV hit ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, which also showed life in a small country town.
Waitress may be marketed as a romantic comedy, but is has a much darker feel amidst the one liners. Aspects of the screenplay adhere to formula at times but it has an edge that makes it stand out. Jenna’s naming of her pies after current domestic circumstances is an amusing touch, giving the movie a nice whimsical flavour.
The creative force behind ‘Waitress’, Adrienne Shelly, tragically died before the film was released. This gives a somewhat sad irony to a story about grabbing chances before its too late and the value of friendship. Waitress may not be as life affirming as it aims to be but provides engaging viewing nonetheless.
Rating out of 10: 7
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