In the name of full disclosure I must say that I have never seen a “Saw” film before in my life. For that matter I’m not even a big fan of horror films to begin with but I went into this movie with an open mind. That being said, “Saw VI” is a satisfying film that works for fans of the genre, the franchise and non-fans alike. The movie delivers on all fronts giving fans of the series exactly what they want, more blood and gore than the last film. The movie definitely has an entry point for anyone who missed the first five films and at the same time ties up loose ends from the previous movies. “Saw VI” also contains a trick ending that most people won’t see coming as well as several new and crazy torture traps to keep fans screaming for more. Yet it’s the movies sub-plot about the healthcare industry that reflects real world issues that will keep non-fans invested in the story.
The film begins with a classic “Saw” type opening featuring a woman and a man trapped in a dungeon like basement forced to play the evil Jigsaw’s demented games. The two participants have vice-like headgear on their heads and are told that if the do not cut flesh off their own bodies and put it on a scale they will die. Who ever puts the most flesh on the scale gets to live. Without giving too much away, the original Jigsaw may be dead but thanks to a box, with instructions that say how and who to torture next, his evil deeds can still be carried out by his disciple along with help from the killer’s ex-wife.
In this film, Jigsaw goes after an unethical insurance businessman who we find out later missed treated the maniac earlier in his life. Now the insurance man must find his way through Jigsaw’s maze of death and is asked to make many life or death decisions along the way. In the end, flashbacks tie up many of the loose ends of the previous films and illuminate particular moments and questions for hardcore fans. The movie features the series’ signature Carousel-of-death and a final scene that lets you know “Saw VII” can’t be far behind. But it is the movie’s focus on the unfair world of health insurance, an issue that can be found on the front page of newspapers today, that is at the heart of the film and anchors the movie in a reality that only makes the horror of the film that much scarier at the end of the day.
Arguably after six films Jigsaw has become one of the most recognizable names in horror and actor Tobin Bell deserves to have his name mentioned with other horror greats like Anthony Hopkins and Robert Englund. It’s great to see the actor return to this role even if it’s just in flashbacks and his performance reminds you of just how good an actor he is. Jigsaw as a character works only because Bell is so strong and believable in the role and when he is denied insurance in a flashback scene; it’s Bell’s chilling performance that makes you actually sympathize with him even though you know that he is a horrible person. That is the mark of a great actor, someone who can make you feel for an otherwise repulsive human being. Director Kevin Greutert, the editor of the previous films, slips into the director’s chair with ease and his editorial eye helps with the film’s several flashback sequences.
I must say that this film is definitely not for everyone and arguably fans of horror and the previous films are the true target audience but the movie does work on some levels as an interesting thriller. As a non-fan of the genre I will say that I appreciate the strong level of acting and attention to detail that is represented in the film. The production level is above average and the movie has some truly disturbing moments; which is of course what a fan would hope for in a film like this. It’s easy to see why the “Saw” series is the crown jewel of the so-called “Torture Porn” genre because its still head-and-shoulders above all of its imitators.
In short “Saw VI” works. It’s not my cup-of-tea but I recognize that it is well made by creators who care about what they are doing and who they are doing it for. The franchise has created their own type of sub-genre and there really is no one else that can do it like them. As easy as it would be to have a certain moment go south and seem fake or unauthentic the film is able to keep you in the moment and make each encounter creepier and more believable than the last. If you like scary, over-the-top, gory horror films with a good twist, then this is the movie for you this Halloween season.