I was wrong.
"Saw IV", from director Darren Lynn Bousman ("Saw II" and "III"), and writers Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton (taking over for series veteran Leigh Whannell) delivers a story that is thrilling, poignant and disturbing, taking the series in a slightly different direction in terms of tone and style, while at the same time retaining the mood that made the first three films unique.
It is honestly very hard to summarize the story without revealing the many twists and turns, but here I go: Jigsaw and Amanda are dead. However, during the autopsy of Jigsaw's body, an audio tape is discovered in his stomach. Detective Hoffman (who you may remember from a brief cameo in "Saw III") hears the tape, that warns Jigsaw's games will continue...
At the same time, SWAT leader Rigg (of "Saw II" and "III") has become a shell of a man. Everyone he works with and treasures as friends have been killed. He is becoming reckless... burnt out and hollow.
However, something sinister is about to happen... and Rigg will have to play a part in a fiendish new game orchestrated by Jigsaw, who despite being dead, is still the master puppeteer of morals and torture.
That is the basic plot line in a nutshell. However, don't be fooled. Though he is dead, Jigsaw is still very much an important part of the story. We get numerous flashbacks of him before his transformation into the brilliant madman we know from previous films, and see exactly what events triggered his desire to turn... If you think his only problem was the cancer inside, think again... There is much more to be discovered about John Kramer... And I think there is still more to the character to explore in future films...
There are also other new characters, including Jigsaw's ex, and a pair of FBI agents, who complicate the movie (in a good way), by creating numerous intersecting sub-plots.
But onto the real fun of the series... The traps. I, personally, loved every trap in this film. We get to witness Jigsaw's first effort (which I can only say is painful in many different ways), and we get new, disturbing and complicated set-ups... While the film might not have the "ouch" factor that past traps (paticularly "The Rack" from "III") might have had, they are certainly gory and zany enough to keep everyone entertained and revolted at the same time. In fact, I would say the audience I saw the film with (a sold-out theater at 10:25 opening night) had the best reactions I have ever seen with a film. Bravo to the filmmakers! There were really very few down-points in the film, for me. I ate-up everything that I saw, and loved just about every second of it!
Also, the numerous twists and turns throughout kept me reeling. And for once, I can honestly say I did not see the (series staple) twist ending coming... A real shocker!
And while I did miss some of the characters from previous installments (I wish Shawnee Smith's Amanda could have gotten more screen time), the new characters have so much promise and potential, I can forgive any complaints I might have.
Here's to "Saw IV"... A frenzied and freakish sequel that has only fueled my hunger for future installments! 9 out of 10!