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SAW IV: An Unaware Parody Of Itself

Saw IV goes even bigger than its predecessors, but with the loss of the franchise's main writer, the story loses much of its oomph.

SAW IV: An Unaware Parody Of Itself

With only one month until the release of Jigsaw, I thought it would be fun to revisit all the entries in the controversial gore fest franchise, Saw. Every week, I’ll be watching and reviewing the respective film in chronological order. For this week, let’s revisit the controversial Saw IV.

As writer Leigh Whanell moves on to better things, Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton are left with the difficult task of restarting the franchise again after Saw III wrapped up the trilogy. The first three Saw films have undeniably been box office successes, and this seems to be the driving force to create Saw IV. The fourth entry offers nothing beyond recycling tropes and cliches typical to this franchise, leaving it scraping the bottom of the barrel.

If you thought the sadistic games were over after the death of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), think again. During his autopsy, a cassette tape was discovered in his stomach signaling the continuation of the games. His plan involves Daniel Riggs (Lyriq Bent) as he is forced to play the part of Jigsaw to find two missing colleagues. This copycat game gives the impression to FBI Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) that Riggs may be the copycat killer. To help, he interviews Jigsaw’s wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), to understand just how her husband got this way.

Building The Puzzle

The best part of the Saw franchise continues to be its main antagonist, Jigsaw. He may have died in the third entry, but in this fourth installment, we get to learn about Jigsaw’s past and how he got to his sadistic self. We get to see how his wife’s life interconnects with his path and even though it isn’t super interesting, it’s the most interesting part of Saw IV. It’s an easy decision to keep him at the center of this franchise, and while it seems like clinging to the past, it’s the only engaging part of the whole movie.

SAW IV: An Unaware Parody Of Itself

source: Lionsgate

Butchered Story

What I like to call the “torture storyline” has always been the appeal of the Saw movies. Following the victims, as they try to figure out the somewhat over the top murderous games is Saw’s main pitch, and it’s exactly what keeps the fans of the franchise coming for more. Saw IV doesn’t seem to acknowledge this as it gives us a rushed and stale torture storyline.

SAW IV: An Unaware Parody Of Itself

source: Lionsgate

The film takes for granted that we are already emotionally invested in Daniel Riggs. However, he never got a chance to make an impression in the other films and barely got screen time. His journey through the city forced to do Jigsaw’s job just isn’t as interesting as III’s similar structure. There may be more torture and gore, but there isn’t a morality play as the previous installments. Believe it or not, this is a big part of why the first two films succeeded, and I don’t think the new writers understood.

A Parody Of Itself

There’s something about Saw IV that feels like a parody of itself. It takes a lot of the tropes of the first three films and exaggerates them to ridiculous proportions. For one, this fourth entry feels like an overplotted mess revealing too many twists and subplots. After III, it started to feel more and more like Saw was overly relying on convenience and excessive plot twists. In a way, Saw IV overused these two tropes, and it turned out ridiculous.

Overplotting aside, the baffling choices continue with an excessive use of references to previous films. Saw IV feels like every scene, and every shot has a reference to the first Saw or the other entries. Although these references are overexposed, it’s the obnoxious wink-like approach that makes them unbearable and cheesy.

SAW IV: An Unaware Parody Of Itself

source: Lionsgate

By far the most perplexing choice in Saw IV is the choice to go even bigger with the games. Now, the games are no longer in one building but in many places in the city. There are games in motels, warehouses, and even in the person’s own home. The funny thing about this whole mess is that I don’t truly believe that the writers or the director were aware that what they’ve created here was a parody. The believable train has officially left, and the whole Saw IV feels like a new Scary Movie.

Saw IV: Conclusion

Saw IV builds an over-elaborate game, and it’s unable to escape its own game ultimately killing itself. Leigh Whannell‘s departure isn’t showing great signs for the future as the writers seem not to understand the Saw films. They are a big reason why this entry feels more like a parody than an actual Saw film. It’s the balance between not doing enough and doing too much that Saw IV has a problem with.

Do you agree that Saw IV is a parody of a Saw film instead of an actual Saw franchise entry?

Saw IV came out in theatres in 2007. 

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

From a young age, I was drawn to films especially the horror and psychological thriller genre. Living in a small town in New Brunswick, Canada, I later fell in love with reviewing and writing about movies. I like to bring my background in Psychology and Religious Studies to my writing and film reviews. Apart from films, I enjoy writing and drawing. However, nothing makes me happier than celebrating Halloween and playing tennis.

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