“Conundrum of Carnage”
From what I read, the storylines set forth in and around Saw III will culminate to a conclusion with the eighth entry in the bloody saga. After a pretty dismal opening and quick fall from the Top 5 in week number 2 for Saw VI, the question shouldn’t be when the story ends, but when the money does. I know that the films have a pretty cheap budget and so far reaped a huge profit, but you do have to wonder when enough is enough. Personally, I found the past three installments to be riveting as far as the overall mythology goes, if not a bit lacking in their ability to stand by themselves, so I’d be willing to go as far as the story needs to find an end. What unfortunately appears to have occurred this time around is that the plot needed a little bit of padding. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film in as far as it continues what came before, however, I couldn’t help thinking how similar it was to Saw V. When all was said and done, we as an audience learn one thing of importance—what was in the box, pretty lame and obvious in the end—and are posed one question for the sequel—what’s in the envelope? Everything else, I’m afraid, was just an excuse to make people scream.
Maybe I am selling it short, though, the film also has one more thing, a pretty obvious commentary on healthcare. With the political climate of America trying its best to promote healthcare reform, I guess one shouldn’t be surprise that the debate hit cinemas in veiled attempts to express an opinion. I just don’t think anyone saw the Saw series as a platform for such a concept. Throughout the story, we have learned Jigsaw’s motivations on showing people death in order for them to finally want to live. Here is a man that has sought revenge on those wasting away God’s gift while he disintegrated away from the cancer ravaging his body. After the first two films, the stakes got a little more personal with victims all of a sudden becoming people who either wronged him or had a direct effect on his current state. Whether this was an original idea behind the franchise or not, it has become the staple driving force behind everything happening. Jigsaw’s marriage was destroyed, his unborn child killed, his business ripped from under him, and his very life snuffed out too soon. At some point, the trial runs featuring his maniacal games graduated to the big leagues, holding people hostage to show how they have been killing others for nothing more than the bottom line as well as some revenge too.
Who better to place a vendetta against than the insurance company that declined to give him the money for experimental treatment, even going so far as saying they’d drop him for breach of policy if he went ahead and paid for it himself? We even get a little jab in about how people blame the sick, people blame the government, but in fact it is the insurance companies that have destroyed our system. I actually liked the anecdote about Far East countries that pay doctors when they are healthy and not when they are sick. In some messed up utopia kind of way that makes sense; if the doctor cures you, pay until the result ceases. If the doctor fails, well, he got his practice and will try harder next time to earn his paycheck. But I digress, the point of it all being intertwined with the plot of Saw VI is that Jigsaw needed a mark to hatch a new elaborate scheme, even larger in scope than V’s pitting multiple people against each other. Why not get the man responsible for a Health Insurance logarithm that seals the fate of so many without any human interaction and watch him see how impersonal and disgusting his system is? Have Mr. Easton pick and choose with the lives of people he cares about and knows; make the man behind the curtain see whether logic can truly prevail.
The aesthetic does hold strong, creating some fun instances of blood and gore—especially the pound of flesh beginning—and the acting remained stalwart too. Tobin Bell has made himself into a stable visage on the horror scene, doing his best to be a ‘morally just’ homicidal maniac; Shawnee Smith returns in flashbacks to remind us of her reformed misfit; and Betsy Russell continues to stealthily hide her true motivations as Jill, creating the biggest enigma to the tale, something I hope begins to unravel in the next film. As far as our Jigsaw Part Deux, Agent Hoffman, Costas Mandylor once more portrays the burly madmen with more brains than your usual movie muscle. He plays the part well, even if it’s not the best acting performance you could hope for. I did really enjoy Peter Outerbridge’s Easton, though, the most memorable part of the mini-story at the center. He shows a definite evolution in thought process, discovering how his decisions really affect the strangers he keeps far away from. And who doesn’t like blasts from the past like Darius McCrary in a small role. That’s right, young Eddie from “Family Matters” has risen from the ashes.
In the end, I do think this encapsulated test is done better than the somewhat sprawling and overly ambitious one in the previous episode. You see how Easton’s company personally affected Jigsaw as well as so many others, almost giving you pleasure in watching these soulless money-grubbing cowards bite the dust. But once again, it pales in comparison to the true reason I keep watching, to find out how John Kramer’s unconventional system of ‘saving’ people will finally play out. The problem, however, is that the parts shown connecting this to what came first are pretty inconsequential, or at least not enough to warrant its own segment. I do think parts V and VI are the same exact film, giving a little bit to make them feasible, but not enough to make me feel they couldn’t have been combined into one. We all know that Hoffman is framing Strahm, we all know Jill Tuck knows more than she is letting on, we all know Hoffman never liked Amanda, etc, etc. Rather than enlightening us with something new, the film just confirms what we deciphered for ourselves. I do like the conclusion, however, setting up a battle that could derail everything, but 90 more minutes weren’t needed to get us there.
Saw VI 5/10 | ★ ★
 Costas Mandylor stars as ‘Hoffman’ in SAW VI. Photo credit: Steve Wilkie
 Tanedra Howard, winner of VH1’s “Scream Queens,” as ‘Simone’ in SAW VI. Photo credit: Steve Wilkie