“Saw IV” opened up at No. 1 in the U.S. box office for the weekend of Oct. 28, grossing $31.7 million and topped the heralded $50 million mark after a mere two weeks. The gimmick of releasing each successive entry to the series near or on Halloween has proven to be a lucrative formula for the films’ producers and, at this rate, we can plan on seeing “Saw” movies released in late October well into the next century (I can picture it now – “Saw 37: The Game is Still Not Over Yet”).

The fourth entry begins with a detailed dissection of the diseased Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell), where it’s revealed that he has at least one more game left in him, as told by a tape found in his stomach.

The stark contrast of reds and whites and careful attention to detail of this scene actually got me interested at first, but after five more minutes I realized that this was the same old “Saw” franchise, complete with hallucinatory editing and bleak, metallic settings. It’s still basically a Nine Inch Nails video gone terribly wrong.

Reduced to the most common denominator, this film is, as my friend aptly put it, no more than a string of increasingly messed up “Would you rather?” games, saddled even further by a lame attempt at telling a back story and acting straight out of a Skinemax late-night soft-core porn.

Treating it like a soft-core porn, then, I waited for Jigsaw’s hot ex-wife (played by Betsy Russell) to take off her clothes during the interrogation room scene and provocatively ask, “Why don’t you lay down the law on me, Agent Strahm?” to the cheesy detective (played by Scott Patterson). Instead, all I got was a dumb girl getting her hair pulled very badly and a dude getting his head smashed between two blocks of ice. I was pissed.

Sorry if I ruined anything for you, but if you actually look forward to the unsettling scenarios that these films offer, I suggest you go to therapy.

With his respectable but flawed “Hostel II,” Eli Roth all but closed the casket on the recent wave of American horror films known as torture-porn. He knew it was over. Yet, for some reason, movies like “Saw IV” keep coming out and, worse yet, we keep going.

This says two things about Americans (and yes, I even lump myself into this increasingly despairing category of human beings): 1) We suck when it comes to picking a good movie to see and 2) We are obsessed with violence.

I am not one to shame this film on moral grounds, even if pregnant girls are having miscarriages on screen and detached limbs are flying around. In fact, I happen to love movies that are in bad taste, including but not limited to “Pink Flamingos,” “The Evil Dead” series and any 1970’s exploitation film with ample amounts of nudity and violence.

It’s just that, unlike these films, the “Saw” series offers its audience no redeeming social value other than clichd personal dilemmas. Even Roth knew that there was a limit to how far you could go to make a point and, even still, he did so with a sense of self-awareness and humor. “Saw IV” is not funny at all – it’s flat out disturbing – and if the makers of this film think that anyone in his right mind is going to leave the theater a better human being, they’re dead wrong.

Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.



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