In keeping with the series' preference for the literal over the mythic, Saw IV offers no miraculous, Michael Myers-style resurrection for torture artiste John "Jigsaw" Kramer (Tobin Bell), who went out with a bang at the end of Saw III and makes his first appearance here as the toe-tagged specimen in an autopsy scene so gruesomely detailed it could be used as a med-school primer. But if Jigsaw is gone, he's hardly forgotten: Soon someone is up to Kramer's old tricks, which this time means subjecting SWAT team commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent, a series regular since Saw II, which might make him the longest-surviving black character in horror-movie history) to the obligatory gauntlet of damned-if-you-do/don't puzzle boxes and Old Testament moralizing. But like the movie's mysterious Jigsaw doppelganger, Saw IV is itself a poor substitute for the original (or even the first two sequels), from the ho-hum deathtraps that seem designed by Rube Goldberg's less prodigal younger brother to the "twist" ending surprising only in its Agatha Christie obviousness. Much more gripping are the handful of flashback scenes that bring Kramer (and, in turn, the excellent Bell) back from the grave and offer new insight into the making of the movies' most insidiously appealing quasi-madman since Hannibal Lecter. May I propose a full-tilt prequel: Jigsaw Rising?
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.