After the rather drab fifth installment, it seemed like the relentless, annual, murder-machine known as the Saw franchise had finally come to a screeching, grinding halt and much like one of the victims caught in it’s maze-like continuity, actually seemed to be uncertain what direction it should now proceed. At this point in the series the plot had become hopelessly bogged down with the comings and goings of Mark Hoffman – a burly police detective that had been revealed to have been aiding Jigsaw since before the events of the first movie – and Jigsaw’s morally compromised ex-wife, Jill Tuck with the problem being that neither of them was even remotely as interesting as the franchise’s chief villain… who had died in part III…
However, a brief lull in the slow death spiral of the series was at hand as we finally got an installment that proved to be one of the best of the sequels and a much needed breath of fresh air in those musty basements that most of Jigsaw’s victims seem to find themselves…
Right, let’s see… where where we..? Ah yes! Detective Hoffman has been successful in shifting suspicion that he is the new Jigsaw killer by framing and murdering FBI agent Peter Strahm by crushing him in a giant press until he looks like a giant wad of bloody chewing gum. Now free to carry out the last wishes of the original Jigsaw John Kramer, he sets up yet another horrific gauntlet for some new, morally bankrupt, sod to kick about in – but this victim is a little more personal than most as it turns out to be the head of the insurance firm who turned away Kramer’s claim while he was looking for more radical cures for his cancer. As this man wanders from area to area in one of those football stadium-sized abandoned buildings Jigsaw seems to find, he is forced to play game after brutal game in which the lives of his employees are on the line as he’s forced to put his firm’s harsh policy into bloody practice.
However, while this is going on (and there’s always something going on in a Saw film), Hoffman finds out that news of the death of Strahm’s partner in part IV had been greatly exaggerated and she’s highly dubious about the fact that her colleague had the mental state (not to mention the time!) to perform the highly complicated tortures of multiple people without her cottoning on. Meanwhile Jill Tuck, looking inordinately glamorous for a serial killer’s ex-wife who also runs a drug rehabilitation clinic, is still fussing around and fulfilling Kramer’s final wishes – but is one of them to target the troublesome Hoffman? In an earlier message from beyond the grave, Jigsaw did warn him he would be tested, but why? Is Hoffman responsible for more dirty deeds than we first thought?
There’s a noticable lightness of foot around this sixth trip through Saw territory and it all seems to be down to the directing debut of Kevin Greutert; an editor of some renown who was instrumental in coming up with the particular editing style that made the original Saw stand out from the rest of it’s torture porn ilk. Frankly, it’s somewhat of a relief considering that the last movie moved with all the grace of a sloth wearing concrete wellingtons, Greutert manages to charge the whole thing with a new blast of energy that keeps the (still) overcomplicated plot moving with some welcome velocity.
Firstly, the movie wisely puts the traps and puzzles back into the forefront of the movie (in the last one the over arching game felt more like an afterthought) and while we’ve seen the similar layout of a victim bouncing from setup to setup while affecting the outcome of others before (both III and IV had this format), the fact that this man has to choose which of his employees to save – while mutilating himself, naturally – adds something a little different to an overworked formula. It also helps that the traps of part VI are also noticably a clutch of vicious little bastards with a dash through a maze filled with boiling steam and a Sophie’s Choice moment between who will and won’t by hung by razor wire standing out as being particularly spiteful. However, the cream of the crop is a trap that goes by the delightful moniker of the Shotgun Carousel that sees six workers chained to a roundabout that stops occasionally in front of (surprise, surprise) a shotgun while their boss gets to choose the two who will survive and therefore making it half as traumatic to watch as your average episode of The Apprentice. It’s a savage sequence that allows the series to think outside the box for a change as this well-oiled team start turning on each other like animals in order to avoid a pump action chest massage and it’s a definite high point when it comes to the varied death-machines that make these movies tick.
While the Hoffman/Tuck subplot may still stink a little of a Hallmark Channel thriller with loads more gore, the Jigsaw flashbacks are actually more relevant to the A-plot for a change and actually have a few things to say on the subject of healthcare in America – although maybe don’t have it come from the mouth of a deranged sadist, yeah? That’s like having Jason Voorhees be a spokesperson for the Samaritans – and it proves that this entry into saga of suffering is actually trying to be a bit more relevant.
However, the real draw here (and always has been) is the splattery collateral damage caused by those deadly devices and Saw VI caters nicely to gorehounds with some typically over the top acts of gruesome goings on. Beginning with two loan sharks haking off bits of themselves in an attempt to see who can remove the most poundage of flesh before the clock runs out and ending in a truly spectacular deep muscle chemical cleanse that puts the “acid” into acid reflux, the perky violence also manages to consistently be a cut above it’s fellow sequels.
That all being said – just because the film manages to be a good Saw sequel, it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a Saw sequel and all the problems inherited by the franchise are still very much in effect, if just a little less noticable for a change. The movie still has to muscle through it’s seemingly endless B-plot – although it’s revelations do mean we get a welcome return (in flashbacks of course) of Shawnee Smith – and we still get another cliffhanger ending that leaves us hanging that nonetheless hints that the end may finally be in sight.