There are any number of clichés I could start this review with…
It’s Halloween, it must be Saw.
I would like to play a game.
But the one that would be most appropriate with this foundational Lionsgate franchise would be this: The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be. When we last left our intrepid killer (Costas Mandylor) had just squished his FBI counterpart at the end of what was likely the weakest movie of the series. By this point, Saw had devolved from John Kramer (Tobin Bell), or rather, Jigsaw’s extreme methods of getting people to appreciate the gift of life to being just another slasher film with elaborate set pieces. To me, it was the aspect that Jigsaw didn’t just want to kill the people in his traps, he wanted them to sacrifice, and through that, realize the errors of their ways. It was the loss of this focus that made Saws IV and V weaker than their three predecessors.
And then, along came “Saw VI.”
Though penned by the same duo that brought us the disappointing fourth and fifth installments (Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton), this movie seem closer in feel to earlier editions of the series. Once again, we get into more primal psychological elements instead of chases and whodunits. However, it’s not just primal; it’s also currently relevant as Jigsaw’s posthumous plans now target the health insurance industry. Company VP, William (Peter Outerbridge) is the man personally responsible for denying Jigsaw’s insurance that would have allowed his terminal cancer to be treated. To say it doesn’t end well for William or his co-workers would be just a bit of an understatement – after all, this IS a Saw movie.
From the aspect of a pure horror movie, it’s a joy. The blood flows freely and creatively from the opening bell – I may never look at weight loss the same way again – and the finale is deliciously gruesome and cringe-inspiring.
On the casting front, we get a couple of the usual suspects back for this movie, including Mandylor’s Hoffman and Kramer’s ex, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell). Of course, we also get Jigsaw and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) back by way of flashback.
Director Kevin Greutert does a good job of keeping things moving right along and pulls this franchise back from the precipice… at least creatively. Liongate’s previously bulletproof franchise fell in the opening week box office battle to upstart “Paranormal Activity.” It remains to be seen if this is an aberration or Game Over for the Saw series.