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Film / Saw IV

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WARNING: All spoilers from previous films in the Saw franchise are unmarked here. Read on or go backmake your choice.

"I promise... that my work will continue. You think it's over, just because I'm dead? It's not over. The games have just begun."
Jigsaw (via tape)

Saw IV is the fourth film in the Saw horror film series, released on October 26, 2007 and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. It was the first film in the series to be written by newcomers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, based on a story co-written with Thomas Fenton, after series co-creator Leigh Whannell was reportedly disinterested in writing any more films.

Jigsaw is dead. Having been killed at the end of the previous movie, his body is soon sent to the morgue for autopsy. However, a tape is found within his stomach, and detective Mark Hoffman is called in to investigate. Playing it reveals a wider plan for Jigsaw's work that is still continuing though he is gone.

And indeed, a young cop named Daniel Rigg obsessed with rescuing Jigsaw's victims finds himself thrust into one of his games, with the lives of Eric Matthews and Hoffman on the line as he makes his way though the city to find clues to their location, finding other unfortunates along the way who are likewise in the midst of Jigsaw's deadly game.


The film also explores the legacy of John Kramer — the man behind the monster — through more glimpses of of his backstory and an additional explanation as to why he became Jigsaw.

Preceded by Saw III. Followed by Saw V.

Saw IV provides examples of:

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  • Aborted Arc: Jeff's arc about saving his daughter by playing another game from the previous movie is abruptly cut short by Strahm shooting him dead.
  • Already Done for You: Unlike Ivan and Brenda, Morgan is already through with her test by the time Rigg arrives and he has no further involvement with the situation. This is the last bit of foreshadowing that Rigg should not be actively involved with the victim's games.
  • Amoral Attorney: Art Blank had successfully defended the various victims Rigg comes across, which include a rapist, a pimp, and an abusive husband and father.
  • Anti-Hero: One of Rigg's fatal flaws. To start, he has a temperamental and focused personality, which stems from such situations, where he acted aggressive, and on some occasions, even turned violent, which brought him into conflict with the Internal Affairs Department. Despite this, Rigg is loyal to both his friends and his department, is extremely dedicated to his work and had a strong sense of justice. However, his quest to save and protect everyone turned into an obsession, which proves to be his undoing. For what Jigsaw meant his trial to be about, see Unwanted Assistance below.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • During Jigsaw's autopsy, his brain is easily removed from the skull, apparently with no connection to the brain stem or spinal cord. In reality, a ton of dissection is needed to remove the brain.
    • Brenda's trap wouldn't scalp her in real life. The hair would rip and tear before the scalp would. Hair might be strong, but it's not that strong.
    • John somehow managed to swallow a tape coated in wax, which also worked perfectly after it was removed during his autopsy.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Never stand in front of a loaded, ready-to-fire crossbow; as a member of the police, the victim really should have known better and assumed it was armed and ready to fire.
  • Beneath Suspicion: The film sets up a twist ending that's very similar to this trope's example from the first film, down to having a fake suspect for the audience to assume as an apprentice. Just like Lawrence and Adam, Eric and Hoffman are trapped in a small room at the Gideon Meatpacking Plant with Art having them on hold while overseeing Rigg's game. Similarly to Adam with Zep, Rigg finds out that Art had an instruction tape with him, and Hoffman unties himself from his chair, matching John getting up in the first film.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted by Rigg in the beginning and done right by him in the end, much to Eric and Art's disappointment.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Rigg, right when he fails his test and gets Eric killed.
    • It also happens to Art when Rigg bursts through the door at the last second before he can deactivate his trap along with Eric's and Hoffman's.
  • Bit Character: We learn nothing about Trevor, and his only role in the movie is to function as part of the opening trap, which also serves as the introduction to Art Blank.
  • Boom, Headshot!: While Art is pulling out a tape recorder to prove he's not one of Jigsaw's accomplices, Rigg mistakes the tape recorder for a weapon and shoots him through the head, the bullet exiting out the back of his skull and causing brain matter to shoot out with it.
  • The Cameo: Julian Richings makes a brief appearance as a vagrant at the motel.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In Saw III, John is briefly seen playing around with some melted wax in a quick shot that's easy to overlook. The opening scene of this movie reveals that he was using the wax to coat a tape, so he could store it in his stomach and leave a message to Hoffman. Though we don't know the message's actual meaning until the ending.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: The flaw Rigg is being tested for, and that he ultimately fails to overcome.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Ivan's death, being literally torn apart limb from limb, is brutal even by Saw standards, though the horror factor doesn't play up much since Ivan is also one of the biggest Asshole Victims in the series.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Rigg charges in to save the day, which ends up resulting in the death of Eric, the electrocution of Hoffman, and Art and Rigg himself both being fatally shot. Bad enough by itself, but that's when Hoffman disconnects himself from his own trap and reveals himself to be another apprentice of Jigsaw.
  • Darker and Edgier: This film is even gorier than Saw III (which was already dark when compared to the first two films), and features some very heinous victims, including a pimp, a serial rapist and a domestic abuser. As if the Death of a Child from Saw III wasn't enough, this film explicitly depicts the miscarriage of an unborn baby in a flashback.
  • Deader Than Dead: The movie opens with a detailed, gratuitous look at Jigsaw's autopsy. His body is thoroughly dissected, as if to drive home the fact that the main Saw villain up to this point is truly, unambiguously deceased.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Strahm, especially in his interrogation scenes with Jill.
    Strahm: Okay, let's review. Girl loves boy, boy loves girl, boy gets girl pregnant, girl loses baby, boy turns into a serial killer... Jill... I'm not buying it.
  • Death of a Child: Jigsaw and Jill lost their son Gideon to a miscarriage Jill suffered while her health clinic was being robbed.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The last minute or so of the previous movie sets Jeff up as the protagonist for this one - "In order to save your daughter, you will need to play a game." Apparently, the new writers brought in for this movie didn't want to follow up on that plotline, since Rigg is instead the main focus and Jeff is later shot by Strahm.
  • Defiant to the End: Knowing he's doomed anyway, Art doesn't cave to Rigg's delusional demands to raise his hands. Instead, he mocks Rigg for failing his game and repeatedly shouts he was being tested the whole time before Rigg shoots him dead.
  • Dirty Coward: Ivan is absolutely terrified when he's at Rigg's mercy, begging to be let go and lying that he felt regret for his actions (despite clearly keeping evidence of them to look over for his own pleasure) and paid for them long ago, when he was actually never convicted.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Brenda, a pimp and the victim of the Hair Trap. Rigg is told not to save her, but he does anyway only to have her attempt to kill him as part of her own individual "test" from Jigsaw. He ends up killing her in self-defense.
  • Domestic Abuse: Rex, one of the Asshole Victims in this installment. He and his wife Morgan are strapped back to back, with spikes going through both of their bodies in such a way that they pierce his major arteries but not hers. Jigsaw means for Morgan, who has suffered physical abuse at his hands and did nothing to stop him from abusing their daughter Jane, to yank the spikes out herself, killing her abuser and enabling her own escape. She manages to pull all but one of the spikes, which is ultimately pulled by Rigg upon finding her.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jeff Denlon is unceremoniously shot to death by Strahm a few seconds after the events of Saw III, in which he was the protagonist, and before he can even begin to play the game to save his daughter.
  • Drowning Pit: Strahm is placed in a portable version, with a glass box locked around his head that starts filling with water. He survives by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy with a pen, allowing him to keep breathing until the police can find him.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Cecil was a drug addict, one of the reasons Jigsaw chose to test him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In a deeply twisted way. Morgan has it fairly easy with her trap, and she's finally free of Rex and his abuse upon passing her test.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Rigg may have Chronic Hero Syndrome, but he clearly has no sympathy or pity for the cruel serial rapist Ivan.
  • Evil All Along: At the end, it turns out that Hoffman, who was set up as a major ally of Rigg throughout the movie, is another Jigsaw apprentice.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Trevor's eyes are sewn shut, so he's unaware of the situation in the opening trap.
    • The Bedroom Trap forces Ivan to gouge his eyes out or be dismembered. Ivan manages to successfully get one done before getting torn apart.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Invoked, but subverted. The core of Rigg's extremely simple game (which poses practically no harm to Rigg himself) is to subtly brainwash and recruit him into Jigsaw's fold. Rigg rushing in, though, gets him shot before he can be brainwashed.
  • Facial Horror: After going through the Knife Chair, Cecil's face is caked in blood.
  • False Friend: Hoffman to Rigg. He defends Rigg from a brutality charge, and offers him some words of comfort when he expresses despair at Kerry's death. In truth, he's a Jigsaw apprentice, helped Amanda put Kerry in her trap, and coldly leaves Rigg to die after revealing his true colors at the end of the film.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: After Rigg saves Brenda, she follows the instructions left for her by Jigsaw and tries to kill him.
  • Fatal Flaw: For Cecil, it's his impulsiveness and short temper. Despite surviving the test John set up for him, Cecil doesn't undergo any kind of spiritual enlightenment like John intended. Instead, he goes into a homicidal rage and tries to kill John, leading to his death when John easily evades his attack and Cecil charges into a cage of barbed wire behind him.
  • Fat Bastard: Ivan is overweight and, while meek and timid on the surface, is revealed to be a serial abuser and rapist.
  • FBI Agent: The film introduces us to Special Agent Peter Strahm, and Agent Lindsey Perez with the FBI. Even though they get overwhelmed eventually, they're presented as much more capable in the situation than the local police department ever was, and reveal they were also assisting Det. Allison Kerry in her Jigsaw investigation behind the scenes.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Cecil is a thief. In a flashback, he robs from Jill's rehabilitation clinic, an act that ultimately leads to him accidentally causing the miscarriage of John and Jill's son, Gideon.
  • Flayed Alive: Rigg's first test involves Brenda, a woman strapped to a machine that slowly tears her scalp from her head by threading her hair through a set of gears.
  • Fond Memories That Could Have Been: In the hindsight from Saw II (see the trope's entry in that movie's page for context), Eric and Daniel's father–son relationship ultimately plays the trope painfully straight, even though Daniel isn't present in the film, as Eric ends up dying before he could get out of the confinement that John and Hoffman have had kept him in for months and meet Daniel once again.
  • For Want of a Nail: If Trevor had only felt around the back of his neck, both he and Art could have gotten out of the situation easily.
  • Glasgow Grin: Art is left with one after being put through a trap that involves his mouth and cheek being stitched shut, and — in the process of screaming in agony — opening his mouth wide enough to rip the sews.
  • Hero Killer: Played sympathetically and very justified. Eric shoots Rigg in a desperate move to prevent him from failing his game and accidentally killing at least three people, but it fails to stop him.
  • Hot-Blooded: After Perez is seemingly killed by the Billy puppet, Agent Strahm can barely keep his rage in check, and we get flashes of his inner mental turmoil as he interrogates Jill for the final time, with brief flashes of him thinking about pointing his gun at Jill, slamming the wall next to her head, and screaming at her. He manages to keep it mostly together and somewhat subvert the trope.
  • Human Pincushion: Rex, a Domestic Abuser, and his wife Morgan are strapped back to back in a column, with both having spikes impaling their bodies as punishment for Rex's abuse and Morgan becoming complicit in allowing him to abuse their young daughter as well. While the spikes went through Rex's major arteries, they didn't penetrate Morgan's, and she has the task of pulling out the spikes which will kill him, but allow her to escape and seek help for her and their daughter. While Morgan pulled out most of the spikes, she lost consciousness at some point before Rigg comes to the scene and pulls the last spike from her, ultimately leading to Morgan's survival.
  • I'll Kill You!: The moment Cecil's out of his test, he rages on about how John is going to die.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: We learn that Jigsaw's Start of Darkness was losing his unborn son due to a door being violently smashed against his ex-wife's belly.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Agent Strahm. He's brusque and doesn't suffer fools easily, but he treats his partner, Perez, with complete respect, Even breaking down in tears after calling her family and informing them she was critically injured by a Jigsaw trap.
  • Jump Scare: Loud, sudden jump moments abound throughout the movie.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Upon the arrival of Agents Strahm and Perez, they basically inform Det. Hoffman that they're taking over the Jigsaw investigation, and local law enforcement will be support only.
  • Just in Time: An unique subversion. Rigg reaches the room where Eric's trapped right when the timer is at one, only to find out that he was supposed to get there in over 90 minutes, and since he got there before the timer reached zero, Eric gets killed.
  • Karmic Death: Ivan suffers one of the most fitting traps and deaths in the series. His trap and both Ivan and Riggs's involvement in it is analogous to Ivan's crimes in the following ways: he's forced into position by Rigg like how Ivan forced his victims into position, strapped to the bed in a very similar fashion to his victims, and Ivan has to blind himself like he blindfolded his victims. The purpose of the trap, should he fail, is to tear him apart, like how the tape states that he tore apart his victim's lives.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Strahm shoots Jeff to death just as he's about to shoot him when he asks him about his daughter.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you didn't know that Jigsaw died in the previous film, you may wish to steer clear of the trailers and one of the posters (also the DVD boxart, pictured above) for this one, which show Jigsaw's body lying on an autopsy table (from the opening scene) and his disembodied head being weighed on a scale, respectively.
  • Lip Losses: Art Blank (as mentioned below in Mouth Stitched Shut) not only got his lips sewn up, but also ends up painfully ripping the stitches out when he screams.
  • Locked in a Room: Three victims are trapped in a room inside the Gideon Meatpacking Plant. They're not necessarily locked in it, but if the room's door opens, two of them die. Rigg blows the trap and causes all but one of them (who was first implied to be a victim of the aforementioned two) to die.

  • The Men in Black: Played with. Strahm's uniform consists of a black suit and white shirt with a black tie, and while he never acts particularly sinister, is impatient with the Metropolitan Police Department over their failures in catching Jigsaw, and isn't pleased to see that Kerry, who served as an informant to him and Perez, was killed.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: Art Blank, the survivor of the mausoleum trap. Once it's over, he screams and the stitches rip out.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Rigg's attempts at heroism cause more deaths than his inaction would. He personally kills Art and causes Eric's death, and kills some of the test subjects he tried to save in self-defense.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Normally relegated to mascot, Billy the Puppet gets a moment to shine in this movie when he takes down Perez with a cleverly-placed explosive in his head.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The first and last scenes are the same. It's in its proper chronological order the second time around.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Art runs at Rigg and gets shot in the left pectoral muscle. He collapses to the ground, but is otherwise okay. It's not until he's shot in the head by Rigg that he dies.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The climax reveals that most of the film's events have been taking place at the same time as Saw III, but in different locations. This is only explicitly shown when Strahm runs into Jeff, the protagonist of III, in the Gideon Meatpacking Plant, and finds the corpses of the third film. Rigg, despite also entering the plant, doesn't witness anything related to the plot of III, with the exception of Kerry's corpse (which was outside the plant).
  • Police Are Useless: Somewht played straight. Rigg is essentially "recruited" to stand in for Jigsaw for his tests. Eric is psychologically broken, to the point he tries to kill himself in his new trap, and The only other key cop from the local precinct we've met, Hoffman, is also in a trap, and ends up being Jigsaw's other apprentice.
    • Somewhat subverted by Strahm and Perez. They're both scripted as highly intelligent agents, and despite Perez being his junior, he treats her with complete respect, even breaking down in tears when she's critically wounded. Both Strahm and Perez eventually start getting overwhelmed by the situation, though Strahm figures out that the main action is taking place at the Gideon Meat Packing Plant in the end.
  • Precision F-Strike: While his test subjects swear heavily, Jigsaw barely uses any foul language, and this is the first time he's seen using it. In the flashbacks where he's reeling from the death of his son Gideon, John says "Get the fuck out of here!" to a guy who was asking him if he was sure about cutting off his funding for Jill's drug rehabilitation clinic.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The reason why Ivan is put through his test, with a video he recorded of him raping a woman even rigged to play on the TV during his trap to boot.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Art points a revolver at a restrained Hoffman to calm an also-restrained Eric Matthews down... while keeping his finger on the trigger.
  • Red Herring: Strahm suspects Art is an accomplice of Jigsaw, and obviously so does Eric. Turns out he was only another victim.
  • Remember the New Guy?: In the third film, Hoffman was in a single scene as a forensics tech (even credited as Forensic Hoffman.) However, in this film, he's suddenly a seasoned detective and the lead investigator of the Jigsaw case.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Unlike all the other victims, Trevor's reason for being targeted by Jigsaw was never explained.
  • Sadist: Ivan filmed and photographed himself raping women to get off on whenever he wants.
  • Sanity Slippage: Strahm undergoes a brief one after Perez is critically injured, where he goes from simply being smug as he's interrogating Jill to becoming a Rabid Cop as he desperately demands to know where the games are being held. At one point he either pulls a gun on her, or at least imagines himself doing so.
  • Seamless Scenery:
    • Rigg literally throws Brenda through a mirror and into the next scene.
    • In another scene, Hoffman turns to leave the precinct... and then Rigg walks right past him, putting a shirt on, which leads into the next scene.
  • Sequencing Deception: The first scene is chronologically the last; everything else takes place during the previous film.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: At the end of the film, it's revealed that the film's events have been occurring simultaneously with those of Saw III.
  • The Smart Guy: Special Agent Peter Strahm's introduction sets him up as smarter than all of the cop protagonists in the films prior. When they find Kerry's corpse, he immediately rules out Amanda as solely being responsible for putting Kerry in the trap, stating that Amanda, who was pounds lighter than Kerry, wouldn't have been able to lift her into it, and stating the "bedridden cancer patient" John Kramer also couldn't have assisted her. He then makes it clear that within the first few moments of his introduction, that he knows that Jigsaw had a second apprentice beyond Amanda. He also seems to have a good bit of disdain to Det. Hoffman, seemingly on instinct. An instinct that proves to be right when it's revealed that Hoffman is the second Jigsaw apprentice Strahm has been looking for. Later, he's also the one that figures out "four walls build a home," is referencing the Gideon Meat Packing Plant. Unfortunately for him, things get out of hand so thoroughly that even with his intelligence, the situation overwhelms him a good deal. Perez being critically wounded by one of Jigsaw's traps doesn't help his psyche either, especially when we see him making the call to Perez' family that she's in the hospital, condition unknown.
  • Somber Backstory Revelation: One of the plot lines involves Jill being interrogated by the police and FBI. Over the course of the line, Jill reluctantly tells numerous tragic past events that led to John becoming Jigsaw, adding to John's own claims about his motivation in Saw II.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Cecil doesn't develop Stockholm Syndrome or forgive John for putting him in a death trap. No, he's royally pissed off and once he gets out, he immediately bum-rushes him with every intent of kicking his ass.
  • Survivor Guilt: Rigg's problem is that everyone around him keeps dying.
  • Synchronous Episodes: It's revealed at the end that the bulk of this film has been taking place at the same time as Saw III, when Rigg and Strahm enter the Gideon Meatpacking Plant, with the latter witnessing Jeff's trial.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • When inspecting deadly weapons, it's very a good idea for everyone to move out of the damn way and assume any arms are loaded and ready to fire. An obviously loaded crossbow makes the resulting accident even more notable. An unnamed police photographer dies for standing in front of said crossbow that discharged while a forensic officer was dusting it for prints.
    • Despite knowing they're dealing with a Serial Killer specializing in homemade traps, Perez leans her face toward a suspicious-looking Billy and gets a face full of shrapnel for it.
    • Jeff draws Amanda's pistol on an armed FBI agent who warned him to stand down. Although to be fair, he was definitely not in the right state of mind with everything he went through.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Invoked by Jigsaw for Rigg's test. Rigg had to watch people suffer in their traps and seeing them get out of there, or try and help them. Over the course of the movie, Rigg kills several characters in misguided attempts at saving them.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Cecil is one of the main reasons John became Jigsaw, being responsible for the first of the tragic events that led to his Start of Darkness (breaking into the clinic and accidentally causing the miscarriage of Gideon).
  • Villains Want Mercy:
    • Ivan begs Rigg not to hurt him, whining about how he's already paid for his crimes, despite the fact that he's escaped conviction at least three times.
    • When Cecil wakes up to the situation John has put him in, he feebly begs for his life and makes half-hearted apologies about what he did to John.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Art was once John's good friend and business partner.
  • Wham Shot: Rigg's recklessness ends up killing everyone in his final test, supposedly including Hoffman, who was strapped to an electrified chair that would electrocute him with the water from the melting ice block that Eric was on top off before his death. Immediately after Rigg plays Art's tape, Hoffman is seen standing up and walking from the background behind Rigg, without any signs of having been actually electrocuted.
    • In the film's theatrical cut, this moment is changed to an additional shot exclusive to this version, in which Hoffman is seen untying the chair's fake restraints.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The opening trap has two men, one with his eyes sewn shut (Trevor) and the other with his mouth having the same treatment (Art), chained to a winch in a mausoleum that will pull them in and eventually break their necks. Since they can't effectively communicate to free themselves, they have to fight to the death for the key.
  • Your Head Asplode: Rigg opening the door to the room with Eric and Hoffman — only needing to wait one second longer — triggers two mechanical arms holding ice blocks to swing down on Eric's head, crushing it explosively.