The Saw franchise goes, ugh, topical with this sixth installment, in which long-deceased serial killer-cum-sage Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his living proxy, Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), choose as their next victim an insurance company VP whose days are spent denying coverage to those in desperate need. Seemingly mad at the executive for having assumed a role that he himself adores, Bell tells this cretin, “You decide who lives and dies,” during one of the story’s countless flashbacks, which have become the series’s stock and trade both as a means to keep its ridiculously convoluted mythology clear and to facilitate further appearances of Bell’s dead madman. Between all the scattershot trips back and forth in time, the Rube Goldberg-inspired set pieces involving lethal contraptions, and the grungy, colorless visual palette and tornado editing, VI is generally indistinguishable from its recent antecedents save for its current-events angle, which only further compounds the unbearable preachiness of the self-righteous Jigsaw and his cronies. Just as V was helmed by its predecessors’ second-unit director, so too is this chapter directed by the previous five’s editor Kevin Greutert, an all-in-the-family protocol that extends to various cameos (notably Shawnee Smith) and speaks to the Saw films’ numbing sense of sameness. Whereas the Friday the 13th films went off the rails with increasing inanity, at least its later episodes took some risks (however moronic) with character and formula. Lionsgate’s signature horror-show brand, on the other hand, seems resolved to merely rinse and repeat until all traces of terror and logic have been forever stripped from James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s trendsetting—and, at least in comparison to its sequels, disturbing—original. Punishing cold-hearted insurers and mortgage lenders, who undergo self-amputation in a familiar race-against-time intro scenario, may have struck Greutert and screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton as a way to maintain the freshness of Jigsaw’s diabolical schemes, but, in practice, it plays like the last gasp for relevance of a heavy-metal series that has not only gone regurgitation-rusty but seems lacking much of a will to live.
- Kevin Greutert
- Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
- Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Samantha Lemole, Tanedra Howard
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