Saw IV

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Starring Tobin Bell and Lyriq Bent. Rated 18A.

In Saw III , the murdering genius known as Jigsaw finally got his comeuppance. He was a dead human, with no possibility of a Michael Myers– or Jason Voorhees–style resurrection. But since when has a little thing like death stopped a horror franchise from cashing in?

Jigsaw is back–or at least his dead body is–and, boy, do his innards steal the show. As the flick opens, we see the chilled remains of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) lying naked on a mortuary slab, soon to be the subject of a full-blown autopsy. Morgue attendants start by peeling the Jigster's face back, sawing open his skull, prying it apart, and extracting his bulbous brain–all in gruesomely realistic fashion. Then it's time to slice open his chest, peel back his ribs (love those sound effects), and remove whatever's there. "Let's see what's in his stomach," one of the dissectors suggests before piercing the gelatinous pouch with a scalpel and revealing what appears to be a small bar of soap. Turns out it's a protective case for a microcassette, which an FBI agent immediately inserts into a handy tape deck. "It's not over," intones the raspy voice of Jigsaw, threatening mayhem from the grave, but discriminating horror fans will wish it was.

The Saw franchise lost its potency after Saw II , which–with its intense action and over-the-top wickedness–was quite a hoot, and a serious improvement over the original, which sported subpar acting by Cary Elwes and Danny Glover's cookie-cutter characterization of a troubled cop. Saw III –which featured Jigsaw's unlikely apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith)–was a failure, and its follow-up is the same.

The focus this time is on SWAT–team member Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who gets run through the wringer, physically and psychologically, by one of Jigsaw's most preposterous revenge schemes. Most of the convoluted plot is tied together with flashbacks from previous Saws and a back story involving Jigsaw's pre-psycho days as a heckuva nice guy. There's the obligatory twist at the end, which hardly makes up for the excruciating boredom viewers are forced to endure. But, hey, if you're paying for torture, expect to suffer.

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