I was born in the middle of October, as was my sister, and I love Halloween and fall weather. So I'm always pretty excited when October rolls around. However, I'd be happy to give the month a year or two off if it meant I could go a full 500 days without watching a Saw sequel. Friday the 13th is the holy grail/laughing stock of the subsidized horror sequel industry, and the Saw guys appear to lack the attention span to realize this. Who makes a movie with "VI" in the title and has any sort of confidence that it will be the groundbreaker? George Lucas and longtime editor and Saw VI director Kevin Greutert, that's who.
These movies are so ingrained in their own tricks and tactics that plot explanation can be done on autopilot. Remember Agent Hoffman, the cop/killer played by actor/boredom-incarnate Costas Mandylor? Well, he's back as the least excitable antagonist in recent memory, because there's yet another game to play and this time, it's personal. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has a beyond-the-grave bone to pick with William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), a health insurance higher-up with a team of six rabid protégés who staunchly put into practice Easton's shady system of patient denials. Turns out he's the guy that had a large hand in John Kramer/Jigsaw's declining health. Easton also has some other ongoing drama involving Harold Abbott, whose insurance denial also led to death, and Abbott's grieving family. Fans of the series call this a completely relevant and redeeming plotline that helps this entry rise above the past few. Considering the events in all the Saw films are supposed to take place within days of one another, it's funny how issues of today are taking place six years ago. That's kind of relevant to the lapsed continuity of a series that gets its rocks off adding minutiae to a story drained of all the initial mystery it once held. Similar to the Halloween reboot, Saw films tell me far too much about a killer whose silence (or in Jigsaw's case, recorded words) was inherent to his scariness. At least Michael Meyers had a fucked up childhood, we're told. John Kramer got denied coverage and then didn't use his own money to pay for top-notch treatment. Real scary, guys.
It's personal in other ways, as well. Agent Hoffman's superiors are suspicious of Agent Strahm's involvement with the recent string of murders, despite Hoffman's intentions to make them believe it. Nobody suspects Hoffman or anything, but a returning cast member lights a fire under his ass. But then how would anybody suspect him, since his only reaction to anything is staring at it in a waking coma? Meanwhile, Jill Tuck, John Kramer's ex-wife, is working like Hoffman to lay down the final cogs in this big, ugly machine, so that Jigsaw's full vision can come to fruition. It all has to do with that box that she was given in one of the other movies. But I'm talking about characters and story when much more thought and effort have gone into the traps and death scenes.
The next Saw entry should begin with a long train ride through a pastoral stretch of land, but it'll probably just retread this same old ground. The opener includes modified head pieces, conniving victims, pounds of sacrificial flesh, and the winner of VH1's Scream Queens reality show. It's ridiculously over-the-top and actually more intense visually than the rest of the movie, which doesn't bode well for anyone. There's a breath-holding trap, an acid-spewing spike trap, a steam-pipe maze trap, and the merry-go-round trap that would have been an awesome surprise if it weren't in all of the promotional material that came out as soon as someone photographed it. The set-up that Easton has to go through, a re-tread of the progression of the third and fourth entries, is a race against time, where victims are chosen based on Easton's background and moral ethics. It makes more sense than the people in the fifth entry, but is still an appendage to the central story of what Jigsaw has in store for everyone, even though everything is connected in the end, of course. I'm guessing the writers do some major back-patting when they come up with ways to fool 30% of the people paying attention.
There are indeed some twists, some plot holes filled in, and other little tidbits for fans to gnaw on. Nothing is overwhelmingly need-to-know, though they're all kind of interesting, I suppose. I wish that wasn't the main focus, though, because the movie suffers for it. The first half of it is purely interested in flashbacks and Agent Hoffman walking around. It's only when Easton gets put into the game that tension and suspense creep in, and they stick around for the most part. I became actively interested in what was going on, and even though things felt like a cop-action movie more than actual horror, there was more than enough blood to remind you what movie you're watching. Then, of course, things got off-kilter again at the ending, but that was to be expected. Stay tuned after the credits for a teaser for the next film. That, or just quit watching after the opening credits.
The best part about this DVD set is that it inexplicably comes with a copy of the first Saw film, which has almost nothing to do with this one, save for the killer and the title. The supplemental footage for Saw VI itself is routine, but rather blah. There are two commentaries, one about as vaguely interesting as the other. One features producers Mark Berg, Peter Block, and Jason Constantine, and the other director Greutert and writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. None of the people involved hold the series in anything but high respect, so it's hard to take them seriously.
There are three featurettes. One is "Jigsaw Revealed," and it's all about Jigsaw's inspirations and hard luck, and how much Tobin Bell brings to the character. It seems like we've seen this kind of feature before, but it's pretty good nonetheless. Tobin Bell seems like a decent guy. Next is "The Traps of Saw VI," which is obviously about the traps and their conceptions. It's only as exciting as you want it to be. There are four aesthetically appropriate music videos from hard-rock artists Mushroomhead, Memphis May Fire, Hatebreed, and Suicide Silence, none of which are pleasing examples of the genre. The best feature, to me, is "A Killer Maze: The Making of Saw: Game Over," a behind-the-scenes look at the idea, construction, and a brief walkthrough of the Saw amusement park attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. I love theme parks, and I'm jealous of everyone who got to experience this thing, which incorporated themes and locations from most of the films into a haunted-house walkthrough.
I don't know what the rated version looks like, but this unrated shit was too bloody. I wouldn't have a problem with it, but the blood is such a bright red color that it never looks real, and thus does nothing to or for me. But for those that like such things and liked the movie in general, it's not a bad DVD to purchase, but non-fans should wait for cable.