How do you turn $1,000,000 into $100,000,000? Here’s one way: Chain two people at opposite ends of a filthy men’s room, too far away from each other to touch. Tell one of them the only way he can get out is to kill the other. Add plot complications. Ta-da! A gigantic movie franchise in the torture/dismemberment/horror genre is born. As I write this Saw IV is fixin’ to come out, and the rumor is that at least 3 more are in the pipeline. I don’t see why not. They’ve got a nice gimmick. The serial killer—still alive at the end of the film—is a guy who’s dying, and is pissed off at the people he sees around him who are wasting their precious lives, or maybe just not enjoying them enough. So he constructs fiendish mousetraps for them, that require them to make a moral choice. Get your head blown off by that collar strapped around your neck, or retrieve the key from the stomach of that dead body in the room with you. Well … he’s almost dead … As long as screenwriters can continue coming up with nasty death traps, basically, they can just make the same film over and over with new faces.
Frankly, from its reputation I’d expected this to be gorier. There is plenty of blood, but nothing all that ground-breaking. One of the rest room dudes decides he has to saw off his own foot to get free, but that isn’t shown. I will fess up that the ending—finding out who the serial killer, Jigsaw, really was—caught me completely by surprise … and stretched the bounds of credulity, because he’d have to do something extremely difficult to pull it off, but it’s barely plausible. I’ve seen worse.
I guess that sort of sums it up: I’ve seen worse. Much worse. It’s okay, for what it is, but what is isn’t something I much care for. I wasn’t left with the urge to see Saw II, much less Saw XXXV.
By the way, I do not believe in the movie’s basic conceit. Serial killers, Hannibal Lector notwithstanding, are never evil geniuses with points to make, and endless money for renting abandoned warehouses and buying high-tech stuff and inventing fiendish plans. They kill for two reasons. They hate women, and/or they get sexual satisfaction through violence. That’s it, really. Most of them ain’t too smart (exception, Ted Bundy), and get away with it only because killing by strangers is such a bitch of a crime to solve.