Saw IV (2007)

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51M4ExTLrYL._SS500_Near incomprehension rules with the fourth installment in the lucrative Saw saga.

Commander Rigg, after having been with Detective Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) in Saw II and being with Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer) before her untimely death at the hands of Jigsaw in Saw III, is thrust into a game by Jigsaw and is told not to act on his impulses to save the ones encased in traps. Meanwhile, another team of cops are trying to get down to the bottom of who Jigsaw has as an apprentice after ruling out Amanda Young – but who is it?

When I first saw this sequel, I hated it, to be quite honest. It was confusing, incomprehensible (save for the John Kramer/Jill Tuck stuff, especially towards the end) but the whole idea that this was running concurrently with Saw III made my head spin and made my blood boil as this, even if you get every iota of information put forward through Saw IV, is no way better than Saw III, which I’m sure I mentioned is my favourite Saw film.

I had excessive disdain for newcomers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who, unfortunately, wrote the amazingly good Feast, because I felt, at first, they had completely shat all over a character and series I held quite dear to my heart. Now that I know more of the backstory behind the film, for example, the producers mention in the Saw III commentary that Saw IV, V, and VI have been laid out, similar to shows like Lost or Heroes. That’s all well and good, but either there was too much pressure to get information across from the producers to the writers to the audience, or the writers didn’t know how to properly and cohesively work the information into a story.

There is tonnes of information being put forward in Saw IV, and more often than not, to a fault. It makes the film definitely incomprehensible to those uninitiated to the franchise, and pretty much nothing but damn confusing to those who are. Would a little chronology and sense of time and separation between events been too much to ask for?

To the franchise’s credit, I applaud them for wanting to tell the story more than showing the traps. I definitely felt in this that the traps were very backseat in the story telling (except for maybe the “hair trap” and the “ice block” trap, sure all traps are there, but all the information seemed more important than the traps themselves), and I liked it that way, there were no leaving the story to show senseless gore for the sake of it, but it was just too much to take in, it’s one of those movies you need to watch quite a few times to understand what’s going on entirely. And that doesn’t help with the look of the film.

Unlike it’s fantastic predecessor, what in-camera transitions they had in this film weren’t as awesome. There was one involving mirror and a police station, which rocked my socks to be sure, and the colour palette, with the exception of some flashback scenes and scenes towards the end, the majority of the film was very bland greys and blues, and I didn’t like it, it makes for an exceptionally boring film to look at.

All I can say without ruining the film is that the stuff nearer the end is more understandable than the rest of the film, and it all involved John Kramer and Jill Tuck. Those scenes were very cool and helped show the beginnings of the Jigsaw Killer. It’s unfortunate that twenty, maybe thirty, minutes of back story can’t make up for a near-incomprehensible full story. What you may understand, you may not understand in entirety, and what you understand in entirety, won’t make sense within the film because there are things you don’t understand, and simply trying to understand why this film is hard to understand is a chore within itself.

The Blu-Ray presentation is good – the picture is clear and crisp, hardly any film grain like in parts one, two, three, which I missed horribly while watching this as that added to the “gritty gloss” the films had as apart of its charms. The sound is clear, loud and brash, and gets the job done well.

There are two commentaries provided. The first is involving the “big four”, two producers from both Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures, Oren Koules, Mark Burg and Peter Block and Jason Constantine. While this commentary has some nice nuggets of information and a bit of joking around, all four seem to end a lot of subjects they talk about with congratulating themselves on a film they think is better than it actually is. Commentary two is hosted by director Darren Lynn Bousman and actor Lyriq Bent, who portrays Rigg in Saw II, II, and IV, and is arguably more enjoyable, but more often than not Bousman resorts to explaining stuff behind certain scenes to Bent who makes it clear at the beginning that this commentary recording is the first time he’s seen the film, which puts a big thorn into my side.

Darren’s Video Diary is half-an-hour of Bousman directing scenes and talking to the camera, more often than not about problems during the shoot, which was refreshing to see it not sugar-coated and see how hard it actually is to make a film, especially with producers breathing down your neck on a franchise movie like this. Too bad all the effort was spent on a sub-par film, but this feature was pretty much the best on the disc. The Traps of Saw IV provides a quarter of an hour of minor explanations of all the traps and you never get any depth from it at all, very cookie cutter featurette material. The Props of Saw IV, whilst as short as Traps, is arguably more interesting, revolving around stuff like the full body cast of Tobin Bell for the autopsy scene which had actual (not real) organs and worked like a real body could which was pretty freakin’ cool – the practical effects company who works on the Saw films are truly giving KNB FX, the company that makes effects for Rodriguez and Tarantino fare, a sure run for their money, as the Kramer full body prop is amazing, eerie and looks incredibly real. A deleted scene entitled “Police Station” is 45 seconds of pure unnecessary. A music video, performed by a band I’ve never heard of, but is obviously big in their home country which is in their name, X Japan, performs “IV” which I actually liked, it still has heavy metal sounds you’ve come to hear over Saw credits but has a more angelic sound that made it different and pretty cool, but the video looks like a recording of a concert and not an actual music video, if you know what I mean. A theatrical trailer is provided (for some reason) as well as something I don’t understand nor will get into called “MoLog”. Don’t ask. I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

All in all, this is just for diehard Saw fans that live and breathe Kramer. While I am more than happy to call myself a Saw fan, I am nowhere near this “diehard” status as three was a fine ending. I hear they’re going up to Saw X but don’t quote me on that, so Armageddon is certainly near if this is the staple for all Saw films to come. It’s too filled with information for its own good and too alienating for the general audience. If you’ve seen the first three, I’d stop there. Two-and-a-half skulls.

2.5

Black Christmas (2006)

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black_christmas_ver3I’m slowly (but surely) making my way across a year celebrating the holidays with a good horror movie. Well, a horror movie, at least, with a holiday themed…theme…

Black Christmas was one I watched recently. It’s the remake, not the original (which I have on the way from Amazon – hopefully it will be a good purchase for $20 all up).

It’s like what I imagine Sorority Row is like at Christmas. That sums it up.

Sorority sisters are being knocked off one-by-one by an unknown assailant(s) on Christmas Eve.

Like all slasher movies, there is a backstory that happened years before the kills we’re going to see, teenagers getting offed in brutal ways, etc, etc.

For a slasher, it’s pretty average, really. I hear nothing but how much the original outshines this remake and I’m truly looking forward to watching it (it has Superman’s girlfriend in it, kids!)

The problem with this, besides a very average and predictable script, is that the killer(s) don’t have anything iconic unlike Michael Myers (Halloween), Freddy Kreuger (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Jason Vorhees (Friday The 13th), even Harry Warden (My Bloody Valentine). It’s just deranged escaped mental institution patient(s) with orange overalls and pretty ugly faces.

What’s with that skin condition of Billy’s? That didn’t really add anything to it either…

I like watching Michelle Trachtenberg and Mary-Elizabeth Winstead on film, and having them in a film together, nay, a slasher film together has its rewards for me, but it’s nothing really Oscar (or even Razzie) worthy. It’s just very mediocre.

The kills aren’t very graphic, although there is a lot of eye-gouging, but be warned: there are “skin cookies” that actually did make me feel  a bit sick inside, and are making me feel a bit nauseous at the moment as I think about it. If there is a consistency to the killer(s) in this, it’s the way people die. All die from suffocations and have eyes ripped out. That’s pretty consistent.

The characters and their stories – none of them are really likeable, nor are they explored in vicious depth. You just find yourself staring blankly at the screen – not wondering who will be next, but more wondering when it will be over. You know, like when you’re around people you feel really uncomfortable around? That kinda feeling.

I’m sure as sheep that the original will be a lot better than this, but I still don’t see a problem with this remake. Maybe if you absolutely need it to complete your complete “Slasher Holiday” collection, other than that, give it a rent if you feel the compulsive need to watch it, but let me tell you right now: you ain’t missing out on anything. Two-and-a-half.

2.5