Saw VI
That’s the biggest Bowflex ever!

Theatrical Release Date: 10/23/2009
Director: Kevin Greutert
Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Peter Outerbridge, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Mark Rolston, Athena Karkanis

Normally, this wuss of a film critic would have left a film like “Saw VI” to one of this site’s other critics. Horror films are no longer my cup of tea and only thanks to the irresistible request of a fellow film critic did I agree to see this. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.

I’ve sort of sworn off the scary stuff, as that’s an emotion I don’t enjoy anymore. I used to watch horror films and still enjoy a good revisiting of some classic 80s cheesy horror like something from the “Friday the 13th” franchise (before the reboot) or anything from the “Leprechaun” canon. But I always felt that the “Saw” series would be too much for me, that it would scare and gross me out of my seat.

I’m not sure this is a compliment but neither happened with the sixth installment. Yes, there were plenty of gruesome scenes involving mutilation and torture but either because such fare has become the norm or I had built up worse in my mind before the film, none of it ruined my appetite. (Though one wonders that I seem to casually dismiss people chopping off their own limbs or watching acid eat through someone’s body.)

Now, I’ve never seen any of the previous films and only got a very rough primer from my fellow film goer who had just recently watched/rewatched all of them so a lot of the flashbacks and character connections were a little lost on me. I was able to piece the more important elements together but only after seeing this was I able to truly appreciate how interconnected this franchise is and if you have missed any in the series, I’d recommend checking them out beforehand.

This time around, the victims are largely those in the health care insurance field. They spent their days coldly using math and economics to determine if someone is worth covering when their health deteriorates. It’s easy to feel some sort of justification for choosing them to take part in a bloody series of traps but if I had to point out the most significant weakness of the film, it would be that none of the “victims” were ever really humanized.

Sure, it’s easy to despise what they do but that shouldn’t justify their torture and murder. As Dostoevsky wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” This crept into my mind in watching the film. Maybe I’m reading too much into it (and I credit the film for making me think, which is rare in the horror genre these days) but had the script managed to make the insurance workers sympathetic, it would have added to the impact of their ordeals.

The production value was up to par and the blood and viscera brought about by the torture traps worked well. I found Costas Mandylor’s performance quite stiff but that must be the intention of the filmmakers because I’ve never really seen him do anything with a defter touch. I appreciated that the theme of ironically torturing people who have done something to wrong others which is the basis of the Saw films. It adds a layer of moral ambiguity that elevates this from a simple “torture porn” film.

If you’ve seen the previous films, no doubt this was going to be on your list. If you were thinking of checking it out, I reiterate that it might be best to see them sequentially because of the manner in which each film builds upon the previous one. This didn’t turn me into a convert but “Saw VI” delivered on its premise and I was always interested to see where the film was headed so I’ll give it a solid 3 out of 5. It’s not so much scary as gory and you’ll just have to use your personal horror sub-genre preferences to determine if this is something up your alley.