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SAW VI - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 23 October 2009]

Why make it a series finale when you cotton onto a plot development this rich? Despite the producers' earlier hinting that Saw VI would be the finale of the Jigsaw cycle, recent word of mouth suggests at least two more installments are on the drawing board. And with regular scripters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton again tapping away, series film editor Kevin Greutert takes his first stab at directing. And the result? It's a smashing Saw VI that will make you forget the occasional shortcomings of some of the latter installments and make us look forward to next October again.

The cold open once again features two anonymous victims waking up in the midst of a Jigsaw-esque game, this time with mechanized devices on their heads that are poised to drive screws into their skulls for a most fatal effect. The nearby TV monitor is hosted by Billy the Puppet, who lays out the rules of this round. Shades of The Merchant Of Venice, each must carve off enough of their own flesh and pass it onto scale, which is wired into a program that will spell death for the one of them with the lesser yield within a sixty-second limit. With the overweight man carving bloody chunks out of his gut, he will almost assuredly be the survivor....that is, until the resourceful Simone (Tanedra Howard) uses a cleaver to chop off her left arm just below the elbow. The scale tilts to her favor, while the unfortunate Eddie (Marty Moreau) receives the ultimate Excedrin headache and untimely passing.

After the opening credits, the final scenes of Saw V are revisited, with Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) being agonizingly crushed a pulp in a trap set by Lt. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who had been revealed to be the clandestine extra accomplice of the late John Kramer (Tobin Bell), aka Jigsaw. Hoffman has covered all of his tracks and has framed Strahm as being in collusion with Jigsaw. But some questions remain in the department, particularly with FBI Agent Erickson (Mark Rolston) and a surprise re-appearance by a scarred Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis). Believed dead after a previous Jigsaw encounter, she actually survived and had been kept out of the public eye to assess from behind the scenes, just who exactly is the living Jigsaw accomplice. Although the evidence seems to indict Strahm, there are unspoken doubts about Hoffman. Rolston and Perez enter into tenuous cooperation with Hoffman, since the Simone/Eddie incident suggests that more mayhem is in the works. Hoffman, growing less assured than in the previous film when he'd already been revealed an accomplice, nearly blows his cover in a glib exchange with the recovering Simone, now in hospital bed and missing an arm.

But Saw VI is really about the new game afoot. Health insurance executive William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) is introduced early in the film, explaining his company's policy of canceling contracts when "pre-existing condition" or "undisclosed health problem" issues come into play on clients' original applications. That way, the company is profitable by managing to insure only those least likely to need coverage, while those who genuinely need health care are dropped and ignored. In a flashback, he has an exchange with one Harold (George Newbern), a heart disease patient whose policy has been dropped because of technicalities, and even a reaction shot of him weeping with his family in the next room don't soften William's resolve. Given the backstory of the Saw series, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that cancer-patient John Kramer--Jigsaw himself--has had dealings with this same company lackey.

And with the other story elements in place, William is shown waking up in a dank and dismal setting, perfect for a Jigsaw-type game. There's a TV monitor presence with a recording of Billy the Puppet giving him instructions. Each success leads to him finding a new key to his escape. Meanwhile, in nearby areas of the unnamed compound, other unwilling participants awaken. One is tabloid author Pamela Jenkins (Samantha Lemole), who has been profiteering off the Jigsaw story. Another is a teenaged boy named Brent (Devon Bostick) and his mother Tara (Shauna McDonald), who quickly figures out, "It's because of your father." William's traps include a one-on-one with a colleague in which whoever holds his breath the longest will survive a vice crushing his chest; hot steam-shooting mazes where one must turn the steam onto himself long enough to give the other a few steps forward; and finally a macabre merry-go-round device with loaded shotguns programmed with a devastating choice game for William.

As all Saw movies do, this one comes together in the final moments with a didn't-see-it-coming twist, plus some nifty use of flashback scenes from previous films that give you a good Shyamalan refresh-the-movie moment. The notable thing here is that, being the sixth entry in a once-each-year series, Saw VI just does it so damned well, and even piles on an extra twist that exists between this one and the third film which will make you rethink one deceased character's motives. Saw VI is easily the best sequel since 2005's Saw II, widely regarded to be the Empire Strikes Back of the series. And while it closes off enough plot lines to actually "end" the series, as was earlier suggested, it leaves enough open to easily propagate further tales along the Jigsaw trail.

And there was the matter of Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), and the question of her complicity with her late husband John Kramer. There's no point beating around the bush, because we find out within the first ten minutes that, yes, she's in on it. And let me add, she has been all along. That's all the spoilers you're getting. Cue the "dunn-DAH-dunn" Charlie Clouser score, butter the popcorn, and get Saw VII rolling. This time, they've knocked the ball clear out of the park, and already have me hankering for next October.

'SAW VI' A Film by Kevin Greutert
Written by Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton. Directed by Kevin Greutert.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]


YEAR: 2009



RUN TIME 91 minutes (US)