Revisiting Saw VI

Saw VI, released in 2009, is the lowest grossing movie in the Saw franchise, only bringing in approximately $68 million. Kevin Greutert, longtime editor for the Saw films, makes his directorial debut in Saw VI. He’d go on to also direct Saw 3D. So, is Saw VI worth watching, let alone revisiting? Read on to find out.

Saw VI opens with the pound-of-flesh trap, which is brutal to watch because, as with most traps, I imagine myself in the situation and cringe. The fact that I enjoy these films so much, even though they unsettle me, is a paradox. Many of those in the horror community like to say that these kinds of movies provide us with a safe space to experience the unspeakable and doing so yields a cathartic effect. That makes sense, so let’s go with it. Interesting note: Tanedra Howard, the actress in the opening scene, landed the role by winning season one of the Scream Queens reality show in 2008 on VH1. Clearly, this worked out well for all involved as she’s fantastic in her role.

In this Saw entry, we see what happens to Detective Hoffman immediately following the spellbinding events at the end of Saw V. I’m a bigtime Hoffman fan, so I was more than happy to take this journey. John Kramer’s wife plays a massive role in this sequel, including screen time between her and Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Costas Mandylor, and others. As always, Betsey Russell does a fine job with her role, and the backstory in Saw VI further enriches the ever-expanding lore for which Saw is known.

Saw VI takes a big shot at the health insurance system in the United States, with John Kramer having a heated face-off with insurance executive William Easton over being denied coverage for an experimental study that could help John win his battle against cancer. Years later, John Kramer’s criticisms of the nation’s health insurance system still ring true, as nothing has improved since then. If anything, it’s gotten worse. Saw tackling a macro-level social issue is a first for the series, and doing so makes Saw VI stand out from the pack in the best way possible.

We finally discover what was in the gigantic box that Jill received following John Kramer’s death, and she eventually locks horns with Detective Hoffman. Meanwhile, William Easton awakens in an abandoned zoo, faced with a series of traps that force him to determine who lives and who dies, which is reflective of the cold hard decisions Easton and his company make every day. At his job, life-and-death decisions are something Easton can detach himself from. In the world of Jigsaw, the reality of these choices are front and center . . . and inescapable.

While I enjoy the William Easton storyline and there are a few surprises along the way, it’s not as interesting as the Hoffman and Strahm drama of Saw V. I do thoroughly enjoy the Hoffman scenes, as he’s trying to slither his way out of being a suspect for the grisly murders and cast posthumous blame on FBI Agent Peter Strahm. As the viewer, I’m well aware of Hoffman’s culpability, which makes his deception that much more enjoyable to watch.

My favorite scene in Saw VI is when Hoffman is almost caught. A voice recording is analyzed, and just as it becomes clear that it’s his voice, Hoffman kills everyone in the room. It’s a wonderful moment where he quickly and forcefully strikes to retain power and stay alive. Through death comes life, which is apropos for Saw. Seeing Hoffman ruthlessly extinguish and dispose of his colleagues is satisfyingly reflective of his character’s motives and self-interest. For these reasons and more, this scene is one I always remember and enjoy.

The ending sees William Easton receive his comeuppance from the family of a man he killed through the denial of health insurance coverage, giving fans something to cheer about and recoil over at the same time. The epic conclusion also shows Jill placing Hoffman in the reverse bear trap, testing his will to live. Hoffman survives by jamming the front of the trap into the bars of the window on the door and sliding his head out. With a maimed face, he falls to his knees, lets out a chilling scream, and the screen turns black as the iconic Saw theme plays and the credits roll.

Saw VI is a fun sequel. It may not be better than or equal to Saw V, but it’s a high quality, well-produced film that carries the Saw story forward, filling in gaps throughout the series’ timeline along the way. The premise is intriguing, the traps are sinister, and the conclusion is classic Saw. If you’ve seen the other entries in this franchise, watch Saw VI. It’s a bit more convoluted than Saw V; however, it’s an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of emotions that delivers the goods, while whetting my appetite for Saw 3D.

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