Unrated Director's Cut
Studio: Lionsgate Studios
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 92 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 – 1080p High Definition
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Release Date: January 26, 2010
Review Date: February 15, 2010
“Hello, William. You have seen the flaws in your policy, but what you have not seen is the extent some people will go to when faced with death. The lawyer from your firm has ninety seconds to cross this room or the device attached to her chest will discharge and pierce her brain. She will find that the journey across this room is filled with danger. In order for her to make it, you will need to be there for her and it is you who ultimately holds the key to her survival. When faced with death, will she have the skills to live? Let the game begin..”
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
When the original SAW was released in 2004, it ushered in a wave of horror films that seemed to reduce the genre to disposable and grizzly exploitation pulp – however, SAW itself was far from dismissible, despite the onslaught of tasteless derivatives that it gave birth to. While it represented a paradigm shift from what horror movies did to scare us and freak us out, it was more-so a clever evolution within the horror movie genre; a film that places its victims inside clever and terrifying puzzles where the only thing that will save their life is taking some drastic measure of self mutilation, or worse. On one level it is torture, but by not backing away from the moral implications of each horrific decision; by choosing to examine right and righteousness, it became a far more complex idea than surface examination would indicate.
The basic plots of the SAW series involve its victims placed in a series of gruesome predicaments by an imposing moralist who wishes to inflict punishment and a chance at retribution upon those that have wasted something precious in their lives or have committed sins which he believes ample punishment has not been felt. Each film begins with a person or persons in a grotesque contraption that will either end their life or let them free after some painful sacrifice. This sixth entry in the series has become deeply mired in the ongoing labyrinthine plot of Jigsaw’s torch being passed now to Detective Hoffman, and the puzzle pieces left in earlier entries are paying off a little here and there. The more complex the subterfuge played on those seriously investigating the Jigsaw killings, the less interesting the premise becomes, and the more distracted the audience becomes by simpler, fresher, and more exciting horror ideas, such as Paranormal Activity, which seriously hurt SAW IV’s performance this past Halloween. But loyal fans of the franchise should be celebrating a mild return to form after the disappointing fifth chapter.
Kevin Greutert (former SAW editor) directs from a screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, and faithfully continues the look and feel of this successful film series. Like director David Hackl’s fifth entry, Greutert relies upon a flashing and zooming camera – discombobulating edits designed to give the audience a sense of the chaos and terror being experienced by the victims. It works to a certain extent, but such a persistent use of the tactic eventually wears on the senses. There is much to be said for patience and steadiness; for simplicity and calm in delivering terror and chills.
The elaborate death traps remain ingenious, and their role in the SAW films – the central ace of spades, much like the innovative nightmare sequences where Freddy Krueger taunts and tears at his victims in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, continue to deliver the gory goods. But the more we see mechanical contraptions strapped to craniums, and related death devices, the more it becomes apparent that this franchise needs a second wind, a mini-revitalization, to remain relevant and successful.
SAW VI, in addition to its favoring of explicit gore and torture, does succeed in rolling in contemporary elements (ruthless health care workers denying coverage and condemning the sick to death for profit), and overall offers a distinct uptick from the extremely lackluster fifth chapter.
The Video: 3.5 out of 5
Lionsgate presents SAW VI on blu-ray with a ratio of 1.78:1 in. As with the blu-ray version, this is a sharper, crisper looking entry from the previous chapter, but not devoid of a healthy film look, there is much to appreciate with this image. The film relies upon lighting and tone manipulation to create atmosphere, in a similar vein to the original SAW (but not quite as bold) and succeeds in achieving a good visual ambience. Blood and guts are deep red and quite realistic (and plentiful) too, if you are so inclined to care about that. One area of possible concern can be seen at the aftermath of the opening segments carnage, as the FBI discuss finding fingerprint. It could be the lighting for that scene, but a strange illumination can be scene, particularly around the arms. I did not notice this on the blu-ray version, and as I concede, this could be a factor of the lighting used in that scene.
The Sound: 4 out of 5
SAW VI comes with a rather healthy English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX audio option. As with the previous entry, this audio is rich with the sounds of contraptions echoing, clanging and clunking, the sound of sawing, cutting, smashing and exploding, and the sound of dripping, splashing, spilling and spewing. All the sounds you expect from a SAW film.
Lionsgate has delivered a better than expected SAW entry with a very solid audio, with some unrelenting LFE during the unfolding macabre scenes. The center channel is clear – though does seem drowned out on one or two occasions by the onslaught of other sounds.
The Extras: 4.5 out of 5
Included with this release is a DVD version of the original SAW movie, raising the score of the extras from a 3.5 to a 4.5.
Audio Commentary with Producer Mark Burg and Executive Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine: The commentary begins with someone saying “Welcome to the annual producer’s commentary” – a bold acknowledgement of the industrialized nature of the SAW franchise (being able to churn these out every year)- but what we have here is actually another reasonably good commentary, with a few attempts at humor that work if only for the fact that taking these films too seriously would be ludicrous.
Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Greutert and Writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton: A little more energy than the producer commentary, but a few more breaks between comments. Not a particularly deep or revealing track, but commentaries on horror franchises like this fifth sequel don’t really need to be, do they?
Jigsaw Revealed (6:01): Tobin Bell shares his perspective on playing the notorious character, and director Gruetert shares his views, as well as thoughts from his time in the cutting room from the original SAW.
The Traps of SAW VI (8:50): Production designer Tony Ianni reveals how the traps, or rather the gruesome effects of the traps, were accomplished. Director Gruetert, cinematographer David Armstrong, and prosthetic make-up artists also share details.
A Killer Maze: Making SAW: Game Over (10:40): A look behind the scenes at Universal Studios Horror Nights SAW experience – a scary maze based on the film series.
Music Videos (15:06): Four music videos, Mushroom Head “Your Soul Is Mine”, Memphis May Fire “Ghost in the Mirror”, Hatebreed “In Ashes They Shall Reap” and Suicide Silence “Genocide / SAW VI Remix”.
Final ThoughtsFor those less familiar with the SAW franchise, SAW IV will seem disjointed and confusing, meaning the SAW franchise will continue to shed appeal and audiences as it progresses year over year. The use of flashbacks to be able to include Tobin Bell is becoming increasingly convoluted, and only somewhat relevant to the story at hand. This chapter is better than expected, and delivers on the horror goods – in particular, the steam room maze is unrealistically elaborate, but one of the more entertaining devices found in the SAW films.
Overall Score 3.5 out of 5