Director: Kevin Greutert Release Date: 23 October Review by Tara Judah It’s been a good three films now since Leigh Whannell and James Wan stopped writing for the franchise and took a couple of literal backseats: producers’ chairs. Sadly, their shift has, in my humble opinion, hurt the franchise, allowing each subsequent film that appears on our cinema screens to replace central thematic concerns such as ethics and humanity, with far more elementary, albeit spectacularly convoluted, ones surrounding boring binary opposites: good and bad, right and wrong, strong and weak, in what is now merely a series of old cat-and-mouse routines. Since Saw III, every subsequent installment has offered up a re-working of that which came before and, disappointingly, films IV to VI seem intent upon undoing the critical work their predecessors achieved, reducing the brand to a high-tech, bloody version of Tom and Jerry. Without giving away too much and spoiling all the surprises Saw VI has in store, it is essentially yet another almost-the-final-chapter film where loose ends from IV and V are tied up and a plethora of ‘truths’ come out. So, you will at least discover the contents of the mystery box John left Jill, along with seeing more of Detective Hoffman’s Jigsaw ‘training’, and of course, there are another set of individuals whose lives are all linked and whose individual actions will prove crucial to each others’ survival… Said victims up for redemption in Saw VI are a group of “predators” who, in the current economic climate, at least, are ripe for the rinsing: money lenders at an insurance broker. Here a shift has occurred: where previously those chosen for redemption would have had concrete involvement in taking the lives of others, or in the taking of their own lives, here we see a group of people whose actions are more ambiguous; more so even than the contributive exploitative murderers from Saw V (2008). The chief difference here is that whilst not allowing insurance to those who need it could be the difference between life and death, it is not certain, and the fact remains that illness is ultimately responsible for their loss of life. This is however a sticky point, as I’m sure it is an intentional ambiguity to further reiterate the films’ contention that individuals can be rehabilitated. Though instead of challenging the audience into thinking through the ethics involved in human actions and subsequently the ethics involved in viewing torture porn itself, the re-writing that Saw VI visually explicates becomes so convoluted and intricately layered that it begins to make a farce of its predecessors. The flashbacks become so incessant that John and Amanda seem suddenly to have become mere components of Jill’s psyche rather than individual characters in the overarching narrative. Jigsaw starts appearing in the videos in equal ratio to the doll which makes the necessity of said doll seem even more defunct than in the previous two films – one of which fantastically begs the question, “what’s with the doll?” and finally, the crimes some of the chosen victims commit seem too petty - smoking for example. Sure, you could put all these changes down to the fact that John is dead, as is Amanda, and his successor is crueler, less calculating, less focused on the rehabilitative intent of these so-called games. But for me the problem is that the focus has increasing, post Saw that is, moved from a questioning of ethics, to a questioning of morality, then to a questioning of human choice to now a questioning of the will to live. John tells us in flashback, “The most important human element of all is the will to live. Until a person is faced with death it is impossible to tell if they have what it takes to survive.” Fine. Certainly our victim/wrong-doer protagonist in this film must use the proverbial “will to live” in order to survive his game. But this time, some of the choices he has to make involve ‘innocents’. One thing Jigsaw never did in the beginning was take the life of someone who did nothing – according to his own code of practice – ‘wrong’. Saw VI has many games that fit with the original project of the brand, but it also has many that don’t. Honestly, if this were it for in franchise I would salute the film and its filmmakers for finishing with a good, solid thriller and a great little gore-fest. In lieu of Saw VI, numbers four and five can be forgiven their shortcomings for the great work they do in setting up a better film to follow. However, as Whannell and Wan quite clearly, and greedily, plan to continue – with number VII in 3D no less –I fear for the next new direction the films will take. To be brutally honest though, if you’ve made it this far with the franchise then you probably will, like me, continue to see whatever follows whenever they bring it to the big screen. Bastards.