Saw VI

The sixth iteration in the infamous “torture-porn” franchise comes, surprisingly, as the most politically charged vent of the year. “Saw VI” bluntly addresses the issue of health care, giving us a ballsy indictment of the American Health Care system which would put Michael Moore to shame.

Sure, if you’re conservative, you’d likely rather watch a more “family”-oriented picture anyway, but the intensely political undertones of the film may risk alienating some viewers. The politics of “Saw VI” may cause some queasiness that has nothing to do with the series’ signature circus of gore.

In this latest “Saw” inception, the protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your point of view) is Peter Outerbridge, a health insurance bigwig who turned down Jigsaw’s plea for chemotherapy, thus guaranteeing Jigsaw’s painful death at the hands of aggressive cancer. Subsequently, the wealthy executive is doomed to a carnival of horrific moral decisions and of course, gore. Jigsaw maintains, as ever, that he never makes his “work” personal, insisting that he wants to “help” the morally challenged with his special brand of treatment, so that other innocent lives may be saved.

Outerbridge finds himself in an unspecified building of mazes and traps that force him to decide which of his fellow heartless colleagues deserve the right to live – leading him to also reevaluate his unforgiving health care coverage formula. ”Saw VI” continues the franchise’s recent trend of traps that pit people against each other, as well as recycling the theme of one main “player” with the lives of similarly condemnable participants at his mercy.

Although more gore was promised for this installment, it’s actually toned down in comparison to the past films. There are more explosions and quick incisions, which are less disturbing murder methods than the torture machines from the other films, such as the genuinely horrifying “twister” from “Saw III.”

The “Saw” franchise has never backed down from killing people who one might assume “couldn’t possibly” die, but therein lies a nagging shoe pebble of an issue. This unconventional pattern of killing just about everyone means the audience has to hurriedly form a connection with the characters, since they’re too often given the axe just before enough of themselves is revealed to make us care that they’re dead. A lesson for the next two installments would be to fully flesh out the characters so that we can anticipate the climax of their inevitable, gruesome death. And yes, just about everyone in the “Saw” movies eventually dies, no matter how inconvenient that may be for the writers.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any critic who would concede that the “Saw” franchise was anything other than a thinly-guised excuse for a mind-numbing Cirque de Soleil of gory, human dismemberment – but I find a very moving element of depth in the anthology. Essentially, the series is the story of Jon Crammer and his transformation into the infamous “Jigsaw” killer.

The story of his and his wife’s free treatment center establishes an initial innocence, later to be corrupted through Cranmer’s disgust at his patients’ self-abusing drug habits. When Crammer himself, who has “played by the rules” his entire life, is stricken with terminal cancer, he loses his patience with his wife’s ungrateful patients. He forms an idea that only certain people are “worthy to live,” and transforms into Jigsaw.

Then, “Saw IV” effectively convinced us of Jigaw’s irreversible, “official” death with a gruesome autopsy scene that would make even veteran surgeons vomit. Nonetheless, he remains a central character through flashbacks, which make up about 60 percent of the later movies, and his legacy continues through the work of his trusty aid Detective Hoffman. This sort of immortality allows the story to stretch out for five more movies (the eighth supposedly being the last). However, the bombardment of flashbacks tends to disconnect the viewer from a concrete chronology, and overall, generates slight confusion.

Yet that’s an easily overlooked offense, as Crammer remains one of the most interesting villains in film history. He blurs our very perception of the term, as generic, black-and-white villains or good guys are nonexistent in the universe of “Saw.” These movies tickle your brain with a question of which person has the moral high ground. You’d be initially inclined to sympathize with the victims of Jigsaw’s traps, but each one of those “victims” is a criminal themselves, who is merely paying the price for his victimization of others. Meanwhile, the supposed “villain” is just a helpless cancer patient who ran a free clinic with his pregnant wife.

But again, the overriding theme in this one is the politics of health care, and the film’s signature traps and gore are now devices for a rather explicit, leftist vent against the health insurance industry. The agenda is aggressive, and at times even seems to overshadow the essence of the movie. Ultimately, though, it all fits within the franchise’s signature depth and psychology which separates each “Saw” installment from the other cheese-fests of horror movie series.