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Saw IV 

Nothing. That's exactly what's good about Saw IV.

Nothing. That's exactly what's good about Saw IV, yet the latest yearly installment pulled in an expectedly big opening weekend. This could be an opportunity to pontificate declining viewer standards, and how the prospect of so many Saw fans is somewhat frightening (especially the ones on IMDb boards who trade ideas for torture traps.) But that would be mean.

Having skipped Saw III on principle, the two years distance from Saw II now seemed like long enough. The new one wastes no time: It begins with the most exploitatively fetishistic movie autopsy scene yet. Director Darren Lynn Bousman might take that as a compliment, but the sheer unpleasantness of his movie is the opposite of thrilling. It's a combo nauseating and boring: an experience akin to sticking your face in a mud puddle for 95 minutes. Neither youthful nor hip, Saw has become the most brain-dead recent theatrical horror franchise. It's no help that it's also the most pretentious.

Bousman sets up elaborate torture scenes where people are forced to make soul-testing choices like whether it's worth avoiding death by defacing oneself with a mask made of blades. When the blood's not spilling, the movie plays like a third-rate CSI knock-off. The acting and technical attributes are somehow worse here (magnified because Bousman tries to pass off his droning soundtrack and editing seizures as a style), but it's still a witless procedural of undefined characters discussing crimes.

There isn't a single intended joke in Saw IV. You can distract yourself by wondering whether Bousman's grandmother pretended to like the scene where a girl's ponytail is pulled till her scalp rips off, but that's as exciting as Saw IV gets: Carnage is its only personality.

The serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead this time, but because of flashbacks, video devices and his traps still set up in murkily lit basements, that doesn't matter much. Jigsaw only tortures those who don't love themselves.

He's like the world's most intolerant hippie, healing the planet through the torment of the clinically depressed.

Wade through the carnage at


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