Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SAW Retrospective: Saw VI (2009)

Saw VI
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Mark Rolston, Athena Karkanis, Samantha Lemole and Eddie Winslow himself Darius McCrary
Rated: R

We got it all ass backwards here.

Surprisingly with following the continual downslope movement brought on by Saw IV and V, hopes for the next one were held very low with me.  To my, and many others', surprise we saw an incredible spike back up in quality for this entry.  Nobody saw it coming.  Unfortunately Saw found some competition in something fresh with Paranormal Activity and the VI's box office return was less and the studio for a moment didn't seem to realize that it had anything to do with the quality of the film.  There were two factors leading to the lower box office of Saw VI.  Both were easy to see.  One was the direct competition.  Another was the fact that Saw V stunk quality wise so people aren't going to turn out in as big of numbers as the they did the previous time.  If its Halloween 2009 and you "lost' at the box office, its Saw!
Getting away from that, Saw VI decides to tell a story revolving around the current political affairs with the US's broken health care system.  Maybe some see it as "jumping the shark", but the series' villain was ripe to tackle this.  And the idea of it may be corny, but it totally works.  Unlike any other Saw sequel, this one actually really has something to say and takes a different approach to its plot.  Jigsaw this time is not only out to teach a lesson, he's taking on revenge from beyond the grave.  While it may be a big issues inserted into a Saw movie it provides for a rather interesting take on the matter some nice thoughts on the subject.
Another strength of the film is that it brings back Tobin Bell in full force as well as a hefty dose of Shawnee Smith.  There's a lot of flashbacks in the film giving the opportunity for Bell to reprise his role and become somewhat of a lead in the film.  Its also possibly his best performance of the entire series.  And that's the thing with the last film, Hoffman just isn't as interesting or good as Jigsaw.  Costas Mandylor pales in comparison to Tobin Bell.  Together as a family dynamic with Shawnee Smith, Mandylor excels in those scenes.  I think maybe because we had to stomach Scott Patterson in the last film we didn't notice Costas so much, but he's really sort of dull.
Mandylor's modern day part in this whole film is rather the very minuscule B plot of the film that really just amounts to him getting caught.  The prime focus of the film focuses on the head of an insurance company going through a series of tests while flashing back to Jigsaw and his relationship.  Jill, Jigsaw's wife, is also given a storyline an that even has flashbacks to her and Jigsaw.  And like Saw III sort of had a lot of call back and "making of" scenes with the first film, this one is like that but with Saw III being the backdrop.  And it actually all feels way less superfluous this time around.  I think this film really enhances because Jigsaw is once again at the forefront of our movie.  His tapes and such claim they are going through the final part of his master plan.
The insurance man's journey is full of great tests and traps.  Most of them focus on choices that have you as an audience member sort of putting yourself in his shoes wondering what choice you would make if you were in that situation.  There are plenty of memorable moments, but it all culminates in one the best traps in the series; the carousel with his "bullpen" attached facing a shotgun blast on each one until he chooses two to live.  Its one incredibly nightmarishly shot scenario and it works quite well, both in being horror and slightly darkly comedic ("I'm pregnant!").  And in the end, this one also has a double take type twist which follows up in one of the coolest deaths of the series.
With all the flashbacks and focus on older characters, Saw VI also satisfies in answering a bunch of the series' lingering questions from previous movies.  Most notably what was in the letter that was in the drawer for Amanda from Saw III.  We also find out Amanda was responsible for Jigsaw's unborn child's death.  Then, we are also made privy to the box Jigsaw left in his will for Jill during her meeting with the lawyer back in the last movie.  I know all these weavings and tying together making everything related are very small universe and downright silly at times, but I can't help but really enjoy it all no matter how ridiculous or far fetched it could be.  Its the reason why I've come to really enjoy these movies.
Speaking of ridiculous, there's that whole FBI plot with Hoffman, Ericson and...THE RETURN OF Agent Perez who we thought died in Saw IV!  This is a bit better of a cat and mouse than last time imo because its not the sole focus and runs swiftly.  Plus you kind of get the feeling Ericson and Perez know its Hoffman and are possibly toying with him.  As I said, before, this isn't really the focus of the film, but it works better here because its not.  Also, I mentioned last time that you'd think Ericson would be promoted to lead, but he's really very much the same capacity.  The person who DOES get promoted is Samantha Lemole as Pamela Jenkins.  She was a reporter in a press conference scene in the last movie who had like a line or two, now she's a main player in Jigsaw's game.  I love it! haha
In a weird way, this film could have actually been a satisfying ending to the series.  I know Hoffman is still out there, but he sort of feel like he "got his" even if he lived.  Its one of those ending where the door is still open for another, but you could close it if you have to.  After the film didn't do as hot at the box office (which doesn't matter as these are super cheap to make), they announced the next would be the last (even though there was word that a Saw VIII was ready to go) and that David Hackl, director of the maligned Saw V would return.  You can tell suits were calling these shots.  Greutert who made the easily superior film went and hooked up to do the next Paranormal Activity film.  But, then Lionsgate got word that people liked Saw VI and didn't V, so they canned Hackl and exercised an option on Greutert to do Saw VII forcing him to quite Paranormal Activity.  So...it seemed like they made the right move at the time.
I really really enjoy Saw VI.  It actually feels like it has something different to offer here, yet delivers everything you want from a Saw film at the same time.  The traps are good because they offer a whole bunch of moral questions, the gore rocks and there's actually a pretty promising story to be told about Jigsaw.  Its also so welcome to have Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith back for sizable parts again.  And it also has some really nice, not earth shattering, satisfying twists to end it on.  I got excited about the Saw movies again when I first saw this one.  It was crazy that getting to part 6 actually returned for a big jump in quality.  But then again, one of the best Jason movies was a part 6, and just recently we did Scars of Dracula which was a sixth movie.  Heck, Chucky's sixth outing last year is easily of the best.  Anyway, yeah, I'm pretty big on Saw VI.

NEXT TIME:  Well, this feeling was good while it lasted, right?

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