This series pulls out all the stops in a sick, helter-skelter way in order to keep the sadism and gore alive for its devotees.
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his ex-junkie apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) perished (happily for some) at the finish of Saw III, but the games are just beginning in Saw IV as a microcassette recorder is found during the mastermind's autopsy.
Two new scenarists devise something to keep Jigsaw's perverted, holier-than-thou mantra alive, which tests the limits of logic. It ties together a black SWAT officer (Lyriq Bent), a detective (Costas Mandylor), along with two FBI agents (Scott Paterson, Athena Karkanis).
The visceral attraction to Jigsaw's elaborate Rube Goldberg traps may still be there for some, but it has gotten to be old hat. Helping others realize their own failings is painful, exploitative; really a hideous photocopy of what started out with some fiendish, clever aplomb.
Needing help from this lucrative franchise are Angus Macfadyen and Donnie Wahlberg, the latter having been missing for a half-year. They're in a signature set piece involving a block of ice and a high voltage electrical panel.
The first scenario with two chained men battling for their lives recalls the revolting bathroom in Saw and has significance to Jigsaw's past. Bell has much screen time due to how important the filmmakers perceive his need to control people's motivations with ironic ingenuity. His ex-wife (Betsy Russell) is interrogated "Law and Order" style and appears to be linked to the latest traps with grisly aftermaths for investigators to ponder.
Obviously, the saga is left open for another installment, but it might a while before the whiplash camerawork and dark blue/fluorescent lighting return to theatres. Saw IV doesn't need to stimulate the mind, just bring lurid, off-putting images on view without any novelty. It's a cut-up of its predecessors as it professes "Cherish your life", "See What I See", and "Feel What I Feel".