Seeing how I just watched Saw VI and have suffered through every one of the sequels, I thought it might be time to run through a quick review for each one…especially since Saw VII is currently filming for an October release.
Saw: The original was actually pretty awesome – a new twist on something you don’t see often, and the beginning of a great idea. Inventive “games” with homemade murdering devices, a serial killer that doesn’t actually ever kill anyone, and two strangers stuck in a room with a dead body trying to get out.
Sure, Cary Elwes & Leigh Whannel weren’t the best actors, but it was thrilling to follow them through to end, and Jigsaw (Tobin Bell + his creepy puppet!) is pretty terrifying in this one. Just try to ignore Danny Glover’s ridiculousness at the end. It’s also fun to re-watch to see Ben from Lost as the bewildered kidnapper.
Saw II: I actually liked this one a bit better than the first (and not just because 80s cutie Shawnee Smith had a more prominent roll). The idea of several people connected in some way having to work together to get out of Jigsaw’s trap and then totally turning on each other is appealing. The thing that almost ruined it was the addition of Donnie Wahlberg’s over-the-top Detective…but they wrapped it up in a manner I found satisfactory.
Saw III: I think this one might be the grossest entry in the series. Ripped-apart rib cages, twisting, breaking bones and a pit of decomposing pig corpses (ew ew and EW) are just the beginning of Jigsaw’s torture-making, and Shawnee Smith returns! But even though the end of this is pretty fantastic, as a whole it was confusing, hard to follow, and just didn’t add up. This is also the last one with Jigsaw….alive. Tobin Bell is reduced to flashbacks from this point forward.
Saw IV: This one was so boring, I can barely remember what happened. Enter Costas Mandylor (who’s not doing the sequels any favors) and Justin Lewis, who look so similar I had a hard time keeping who was who straight, as they’re the main focus. Following the confusing tone of that last one, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense and very little killing. What “games” there are seem to be a copy of previous films, and Jigsaw appearances are few and far between. So lame, it’s not even worth watching.
Saw V: Mandylor returns for another go, with Luke from Gilmore Girls as his partner. Luke realizes there’s something fishy going on and starts obsessively investigating all previous Jigsaw activity, which leads to a boatload of flashbacks. A few interesting things happen, like Jigsaw’s widow opening a mysterious box and a brief role for Julie Benz, but overall this one is also pretty lame. IT leads directly into Saw VI, but you could skip this, since there’s enough flashbacks to cover what happened in that one.
Saw VI: We’re back to some more interesting devices and more gross-out stuff (the arm & pound of flesh at the beginning are ick-tastic!), but unfortunately it’s Mandylor AGAIN – and he just can’t carry these films the way Tobin Bell did.
What I did appreciate about this one was the timeliness of the theme: all the games are based around the fact that insurance exec William Easton denied Jigsaw/John coverage for an experimental cancer treatment, which may have caused his death. Thus, Easton is deposited into the game with his employees and forced to choose who will live or die, based on the principles he employs to decide who gets insurance coverage. Getting polictical on us, Saw? You have my attention….
Next up, Saw VII– no word on plot yet, but it seems like Jigsaw’s widow might pick up where everyone else left off, and word is it’s going to buy into the 3D trend. Unfortunately Mandylor is still in the credits….seriously? You can’t get ANYONE better? Can’t say I’ll rush out to see it, but it’ll be a fine rental.