Full disclosure: I don't really like the Saw movies. The first one was genuinely scary and interesting right up until the end. Then when Wesley from The Princess Bride cuts off his foot, the filmmakers must have run out of money or something because suddenly the severed foot is off screen and the film ends abruptly. Since the first movie was almost perfect, I tried to watch Saw II and III, but they grew more and more disappointing. Cool kills and weird traps are no substitute for a good story line and actual suspense. The only standout scene of these two films is the needle pit in Saw II. I gave up on the series until I saw the whole series was being shown on IFC, so I recorded it. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
* Saw IV
Jigsaw is dead and an unknown cohort continues his work, messing with the FBI agents working on the case. I really only remotely like this one because of Scott Patterson as Agent Strahm who also played Luke from Gilmore Girls. He's always an enjoyable actor to watch and he manages to alienate everyone in the film by being an ass, but he's looking for the truth. The autopsy at the beginning and the end (which takes place after the events in the film) is actually pretty cool and (to my knowledge) accurate. The ice block scene near the end and the trap with the battered woman and her abuser were also cool, but it just doesn't have much going on plot wise. There's an unexpected twist at the end and that's about it. Meh,
My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins
* Saw V
Detective Strahm wakes up with his head in a jigsaw trap and survives! He knows fellow FBI agent Hoffman is Jigsaw's real cohort. He can't yet prove it, so he plans to covertly gather evidence until he can prove it 100% to his coworkers. Meanwhile, 5 people with something in common are in another Jigsaw trap and have to work together in order to survive instead of backstab each other as is their tendency. I liked this installment a lot. Strahm is still awesome, just a little more hoarse because of his self inflicted tracheotomy to survive Hoffman's insurmountable trap. Since he's kind of an ass, everyone suspects him as being Jigsaw's protege, giving Hoffman the edge he needs to sneak around and plant evidence against him.
The side story is actually interesting, which surprised me, The 5 people all contributed in some way to an apartment being burned down with 8 people still inside. All of them acted in self interest and greed, so Jigsaw wants to teach them to do the opposite: be generous, share the load, and work together in order to make each task easier. Of course they don't do this, so the people remaining have a really hard time accomplishing the last task. This type of situation is when Saw is at it's best. Those traps that have no real solution are useless and uninteresting. When they have to get through the trap to change something fundamental about their lives is when the series shines. More of this please. I personally hate Hoffman because he's arrogant and doesn't continue Jigsaw's legacy, but distorts it into executing people he doesn't like. The ending was annoying, but this is the best installment since the first.
My rating: 3.5/5