Picking up immediately after the events of the previous chapter, Saw VI sees Detective Hoffmann (Costas Mandylor) continue to carry out the will of deceased serial killer, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). This time round, Jigsaw’s moral compass is pointed squarely at a big-time health insurance company, and in particular executive William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), who denied coverage for Kramer’s cancer treatment. Easton is put through a series of tortuous games, where he must gamble with the lives of his colleagues if he is to save himself and his family.
Trying to explain the plot of a Saw film in any detail is something of a fool’s errand. Since the very beginning, the series has repeatedly doubled back on itself, replaying and reinterpreting the same chain of events to the extent that nothing can now be taken at face value. The problem with a storyline this convoluted is that, after a while, it struggles to surprise its audience. Motives quickly become lost amidst the screaming and rapid-fire editing and even the copious amounts of blood and gore merge into an indistinguishable blur after the umpteenth decapitation.
Suffice to say, if you are new to the Saw franchise it may be better to walk away now, or prepare to be completely baffled. Audiences need to be fully clued up on the unfolding story to keep track of what is going on, as the script comprises largely of overlapping flashbacks spanning all five previous films.
There are allusions within the story to the state of the US healthcare system and how doctors and politicians are powerless against the money-grabbing insurance firms, but the film dispenses with its socio-political commentary almost as quickly as it is introduced in favour of more gleefully sadistic blood-letting.
This is no bad thing, as precious few people come to a movie like this looking for subtle character nuance or witty word play. It doesn’t even appear to matter that Jigsaw, the franchise’s signature villain, died three instalments ago. In most other horror franchises, it is the bogeyman – Freddy, Jason or whomever – who brings the crowds back each time, but with Saw it is the games themselves that are the major draw for fans. Exploring new and increasingly disgusting ways to torture morally bankrupt characters has always been the key to the series’ success and in that respect, Saw VI certainly delivers.
The film introduces some of the most inventive games yet, including a device that forces you to hold your breath or risk being crushed between large metal pistons, and a horrific opening sequence in which victims must cut off as much of their own flesh as possible within 60 seconds. It’s these moments – both deeply unpleasant and devilishly good fun – that have kept the series running this long.
New caches of Jigsaw’s audio and videotapes seem to appear with every new film, ensuring his legacy is set to continue ad infinitum (a seventh film is already in development). As long as these relatively inexpensive productions continue to draw the crowds and turn a tidy profit, this is one cash cow we can expect to see milked – or bled – for many more years to come.