Hard to believe it’s only been 12 months since Saw III hit cinemas, but alas, we are living in the era of the sequel where film franchises are relegated to being mere products to be quickly assembled and sold to the masses. When Saw was first released we were treated to a new type of horror, something fresh, and that magic word ... original. Now, after spawning its own genre (gorno) and countless (inferior) rehashes, you can’t help but feel as though the ‘torture porn’ film has overstayed its welcome. Just like the ‘slasher’ and ‘J-Horror’ fads of years gone by, gorno is being repackaged and sold to us at a frantic pace even though it has nothing new to offer.
What is more astounding is the fact that Jigsaw (the Saw serial killer) died of cancer in the climax of the third film, yet here he still manages to crush skulls and tear limbs as ably as anyone with a pulse. His spirit lives on then, or has he just recruited another (not so scary) apprentice? It’s lucky for those pesky studio execs that Jigsaw set plenty of traps about the place before he popped his clogs. Saw IV operates exactly like its predecessors (shock, horror): traps are set, people die and detectives try to find out who the killer is. There are a couple of new sadistic traps to be seen — most notably a headset of knives that the captive must force his face through if he is to release himself — but generally you’ve seen it all before, and it was more shocking when you didn’t know what was coming next. Like the recent Texas Chainsaw and Halloween remakes, we are shown how Jigsaw became a monster, what drove him to madness and murder. Yep, that annoying ‘polyfiller’ technique is used to pad out the story and - surprise, surprise — it adds no scares. NOTE TO HOLLYWOOD: we are scared of these psychos because they have no origin story ... they are just plain mad.
As far as pushing the envelope in terms of gore Saw IV tries its hardest, opening with an autopsy sequence where we get to watch Jigsaw have his face removed, his brain weighed, his chest cavity sawn open and his stomach ripped out (nacho anyone?) and this is in the first five minutes. The Saw sequels have all referred back to their predecessors and number IV is no exception. The filmmakers use flashbacks (damn MTV editing!), repeat scenes and show familiar characters to make sure you know you are watching a Saw film (in case you’d forgotten) yet again showing that these sequels can only exist by feeding off what went before them. Saw IV’s finale is so preposterous it includes the main characters from Saw II (Wahlberg!) and III; it’s like a reunion, except you really aren’t happy to see the attendees. The ironic thing is the majority of gorehounds who go to see Saw IV will leave the cinema feeling like they got their pound of flesh (cough). If Saw IV is anything to go by, then the gorno revolution is on its last legs. What? Lionsgate is going ahead with Saw V and VI??! See you next year then.