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</script></div>{/googleAds}Conundrum is a word to describe many facets of the Saw franchise. After all, the whole gimmick of these films is the killer placing his victims in one to save themselves. But another conundrum comes from the now yearly releases of further sequels, which beg the question: Are they necessary? This is not an easily answered question, and places this reviewer in a... you guessed it.

Saw has the distinction of being the first horror franchise since the eighties horror boom to proliferate ad nauseam beyond a trilogy and sustain pretty remarkable box office so much so that two more sequels have been green-lit. Unlike a lot of its eighties forbearers, Saw's sequels have not yet solely deteriorated to mere money-grubbing status, and have made a full-hearted attempt to outlay an intricate saga amongst the gore. But in this lies its greatest... you guessed again!

For the Saw enthusiast those who have awaited each instalment with baited breath and know everything there is to know about the series this fourth instalment does accomplish an expansion of the story, delivering some answers and creating new questions. But for the benign viewer - someone out for a gory-good time that may not have seen the others - Saw 4 is as confusing as a studded collar on a nun. In this newest chapter, the pros and cons are at about 50/50. Loyalty to a loyal fan base is to be applauded, but a film that relies too much on the viewer to have seen all previous entries is playing a risky hand.

This chapter's main story thread pits SWAT lieutenant Rigg (from Saw 2) against the Jigsaw killer... who died in Saw 3. Always the master of the grand plan, Jigsaw has made many allowances post his demise to continue his reign of Dr. Phil meets Hostel terror, by manipulating many to do his work for him. Rigg is sent through Jigsaw's ‘jump through my hoops' maze of victims, being forced to aid the killer, to save his wife and get the answers he needs. Of course Jigsaw proves that, even though he's dead, many lives still depend on those he tests being able to decipher/pre-empt his cryptic messages and elaborate means of dispatching them.

The script is the first not written by Saw originators Leigh Whannell and James Wan. Saw 4's script teeters on the brink of success or failure. Without betraying the origin of the original three, writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston have managed to make the now dead Jigsaw just as dangerous and crazy as before, while adding some tantalising tid bits (through flashbacks) about how became the nut-job he became. But this story builds heavily on the events from all three previous entries, and while they have successfully managed to keep this story afloat (just) despite an overuse of flashbacks, it becomes quickly obvious that reliance on this technique for the next two instalments which they will have to do to some degree is going to bog this franchise down into a convoluted, confusing mess trapped by its reliance on what's come before. This does not bode well for the next two films.

Director Darren Lynn Bousman takes a talented bunch of craftsmen into his third Saw effort a well-practiced director of this world. But he's also running out of fresh ideas after three films, and its showing in his staging and over-reliance on editing to make things different than the last one these efforts add nothing to the film and in fact end up confusing the audience, but not in that good way. Tension is almost non-existent in this chapter, and this annoying contemporary habit in both films and trailers of having some loud ‘whoosh' noise with every cut or change of scene is all over Saw 4 like a fly on crap this grates more than one of Jigsaw's torture devices.

This is a slick production, looks great, the actors do a fine job, and this film isn't an unmitigated fall off in quality, so creates a... yep, you guessed it, that this reviewer doesn't have an answer to...

There is enough in this film to signal it may be time to wrap things up quickly and get out while the going's still good, but equally enough to suggest it's over and this is the beginning of what seems to be all long-winded horror franchise's fate: pointless repetition.

The conundrum remains, and the answer one can only surmise lies in the arrival of Saw 5. Until then.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; deleted scenes; video diary; music video.

* Commentary
o Feature-length audio commentary by director Darren Lynn Bousman and actor Lyriq Bent
o Feature-length audio commentary with producers Dren Koules and Mark Burg and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine.
* Featurettes
o Darren's Video Diary
o "The traps of Saw IV"
o "The props of Saw IV"
* Bones Deleted Scene
* Music Video - Saw IV music video by "X-Japan"

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging