Monday, October 26, 2009

Movie Review: Saw VI

Saw VI **
Directed By:
Kevin Greutet.
Written By: Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring: Tobin Bell (Jigsaw / John), Costas Mandylor (Hoffman), Mark Rolston (Erickson), Betsy Russell (Jill), Shawnee Smith (Amanda), Peter Outerbridge (William), Samantha Lemole (Pamela Jenkins), Tanedra Howard (Simone), Marty Moreau (Eddie), Shawn Ahmed (Allen), Janelle Hutchison (Addy), Gerry Mendicino (Janitor), Caroline Cave (Debbie), George Newbern (Harold), Shauna MacDonald (Tara), Devon Bostick (Brent), Darius McCrary (Dave), Shawn Mathieson (Josh), Melanie Scrofano (Gena), Karen Cliche (Shelby), James Gilbert (Aaron), Larissa Gomes (Emily).

I have to give the makers of Saw VI credit. The last three entries in the series simply go along with the formula established in the first two movies with mindless glee, inventing new, grosser ways of killing people, and not really worrying about what the movie actually means – which is of course, nothing. But in Saw VI, the filmmakers certainly try and link the movie with what is happening in the real world. It is almost like Saw VI is a horror movie directed by Michael Moore.

Consider the opening scene in the film. Two people wake up in a room, and a video starts to play. It tells them that they have taken advantage of people with their “predatory lending practices” by giving people loans they knew they’d never be able to pay back. They have a minute, and however sacrifices more of their body in sheer weight will be released. The loser will be killed by the medieval looking device strapped to their heads. The two start cutting.

And then there is the main game in the movie. Erickson (Mark Rolston) is an insurance company executive who specializes in probability formulas. Essentially what he does is take an application and determine if the cost of insuring the potential client is going to be more or less than premiums they will pay. Then when people actually do file a substantial claim, he and his “Dragon Den” of six people review every document related to the clients file and determine if there is any way they can deny the claim. They deny a man who has heart disease treatment because he failed to disclose a dental surgery he had as a child. Dental surgery can lead to scar tissue, which can lead to gum disease which can lead to heart disease, which means his problem is a pre-existing condition. Without coverage, the man will die, but Erickson doesn’t care so much. He just saved the company a lot of money.

Now, if you’ve been following along with this series, you know that the killer, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died at the end of Saw III, but that it hasn’t stopped him from appearing in the movies. He now appears in a series of flashbacks that highlight why he chose his successor Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) to pick people like Erickson. You may be reminded of CNN when Jigsaw meets with Erickson and tells him that people always say that doctors and their patients, and not the government, should make medical decisions, but in reality, it’s the insurance companies who do it.

But while a certain part of me admires Saw VI for addressing the current economic and health care debates instead of just mindlessly repeating the same tired formula, I have to admit that at the end of the day, this is little more than a framing device to set up a game, in which the result is exactly the same as the other movies. I have become increasing frustrated with the movies, as they have moved away from individual tests that in Jigsaw’s words tests the victims “will to live”. Consider Erickson’s tests, which often involved choosing who is going to live or die. It’s true that it’s a test for him, but what about the poor people he has to choose between. Whether or not you believe that they deserve to die, the fact of the matter is that they are not given a test at all. Their fate is entirely in Erickson’s hands, and they do not test their will to live at all.

The movie is certainly well made for a horror film, but it essentially follows the same basic visual strategy of the other films in the series. It does what it sets out to do and nothing more. I supposed that if you liked the other Saw films, you’ll like this one as well. It is better than installments III, IV and V, but then almost anything would be. And it doesn’t reach the heights of either of the first two installments. Despite the series’ newfound social consciousness, Saw VI is essentially more of the same.

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