SAW VI (2009)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sequences of Grisly Bloody Violence and Torture, and Language

Directed by: Kevin Greutert

Written by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan

Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Athena Karkanis, Samantha Lemole, Tanedra Howard & Devon Bostick

SAW V was the lowest point of the SAW franchise thus far, so there was really nowhere to go but up with a sixth entry. SAW VI is easily the best installment of the later SAW sequels (4 through 7). That’s not necessarily high praise, especially when you consider that this series only has three rock solid movies (thus far). However, SAW VI offers some silliness, alongside more twisted traps, gory games, and surprising social commentary about America’s heath care system. That last quality isn’t something you’d expect from a SAW movie, but it’s absurd enough to make this film worth watching.

Picking up a short while after SAW V’s conclusion, the sixth SAW sees Jigsaw accomplice Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) continuing his mental mentor’s work. The latest player in a new series of twisted games is insurance executive Will Easton (Peter Outerbridge). Easton denied John Kramer (Tobin Bell) health insurance and this helped transform him into Jigsaw. As Easton makes his way through a series of tests that force him into literal life-or-death decisions, Hoffman nervously finds the walls closing in as the FBI grows closer to uncovering his connection to Jigsaw’s killings.

I’ve already complained about Costas Mandylor and Betsy Russell enough in my previous two SAW reviews. Since I don’t want to simply repeat myself, I’ll say that their crappy performances don’t get any better for either of them in this sixth outing. However, it’s worth noting that SAW VI does get some mileage out of watching Mandylor’s Hoffman turn from emotionless murderer to worried killer as his lies begin to crumble around him. Mandylor actually lands one great scene in this film. You’ll know it when you see it. If only the same could be said about Russell, but we can’t expect any cinematic miracles out of the sixth SAW movie.

As the latest player in Jigsaw’s games, Peter Outerbridge’s Easton is a rather enjoyable protagonist. There’s something satisfying about watching a scummy health insurance executive suffering from having to make gory decisions that usually result in a disfigured corpse. This might feed into the not-so-subtle preachiness of SAW VI’s plot, but it’s very enjoyable in a rather goofy way. The traps are all centered around policies and thoughts that Easton has mentioned before, forcing him to eat his own words in horrifying manners. While some of these traps are still exaggerated to the point of being hard to swallow (did this film take place in an abandoned zoo?), these “games” do attempt to go back to the SAW series’ simpler, scarier death traps. A steam maze and a deadly carousel ride stick out as two big highlights.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, SAW VI does have a handful of really dumb and contrived scenes. While the final 10 minutes may serve as a middle finger to certain viewers and I imagine some folks will really dig a revelation that changes the reasoning behind SAW III‘s intense climax, but the conclusion of VI’s games and a last-minute surprise both feel like SAW VI is “cheating” (for lack of a better word). It’s also worth noting that Jigsaw’s standards for victims’ “taking life for granted” have been set so low that a smoker finds himself in a breath-based trap that also opens up a massive plot hole. The contentious relationship between Costas Mandylor’s Hoffman and Betsy Russell’s Jill is a bore to behold, but SAW VI matters where it counts: the traps and gory entertainment. Also, Tobin Bell returns (of course) for a few obligatory flashbacks that further hammer in this sequel’s not-so-subtle social commentary.

Though nobody would ever expect a sixth SAW to wind up at the top of the series’ totem pole and the sixth sequel of any horror franchise is usually a bad sign (except for the underrated FRIDAY THE 13TH Part VI: JASON LIVES!), SAW VI is a rather decent outing in this long-running horror series. The acting is remarkably better this time around (minus Mandylor and Russell). The traps are simpler and more believable (minus a couple of over-the-top bits), with the murder carousel and steam maze sticking out as the film’s biggest highlights. Even though SAW VI has its undeniable flaws and is far from perfect, this is the best of the later SAW sequels (4-7). If you’ve made it this far in the series, I imagine that you’ll get a kick out of the sixth SAW flick!

Grade: C+

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