And the “Saw” saga continues…

Jigsaw’s infamous question, “Do you want to play a game?” has never been as tempting as in the latest installment of the Saw series, “Saw IV.”

Following the tradition of the first three, Lionsgate released the film, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, on the Friday before Halloween. The latest chapter in the “Saw” franchise picks up just where the last one left off.

The film opens with an autopsy being performed on John Kramer, better known as Jigsaw, played masterfully as always by Tobin Bell. Although no longer alive, the character lives on through flashbacks and tapes he left behind, one in particular warning, “The games have just begun.”

It is in these flashbacks that we finally get an in-depth look at the origins of how John Kramer turned into the Jigsaw Killer. To help detectives get a better picture of who Jigsaw was, his ex-wife Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) is brought in. Through her, we are able to see not only why, but how this process all began. This is where the movie gains merit and separates itself from the others, something “Saw III” failed to do.

This movie also allowed for bigger roles to be played by returning characters, such as Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and SWAT officer Rigg (Lyriq Bent). Bent, in particular, is the standout of this film, doing a great job portraying Rigg, who is the featured test subject throughout.

With each new “Saw” movie, the story seems to become more and more involved, leaving it at times hard to fathom. Although this might be the case in “Saw IV,” it is not so over the top as to make it a bad movie.
The ending, as always, contains a big twist, exposing who will take over Jigsaw’s legacy, a question the audience guesses at for most of its 95 minutes. The ending, although good, seems to suffer from the same fate as “Saw II” and “Saw III,” which is trying to live up to the phenomenal ending of the original.

Although it still followed the usual “Saw” format (an opening 10 minutes of blood and gore and then a series of games all leading up to a big twist at the end), “Saw IV” manages to avoid being dry and unoriginal. It was a revealing, fresh look at an increasingly familiar story.

In a genre sometimes only noted for its fading sequels, it is good to see one long-running horror franchise, “Saw,” fight on successfully.

3 out of 4 stars