This one is for the increasingly few of you who have steadfastly stuck with the Saw franchise through thick-and-thin in the aughts. The opening weekend numbers for Saw VI are the weakest since the first film, mostly thanks to some stiff competition from breakout hit Paranormal Activity. But box-office returns aren't everything. So: what'd you think?

I wrote this little piece before the release of Saw V last year, in the mode of a frustrated fan hoping for a revitalized franchise. It didn't happen; Saw V was boring and incomprehensible, and I was ready to skip the sixth film altogether. Then it got some decent reviews, and I thought what the hell. I'm glad I did. Saw VI, which sees editor Kevin Greutert take over directing duties, is easily the best Saw movie since the third. That may not be the most enthusiastic bit of praise I've ever issued, but miracle of miracles: the fifth sequel to a half-decent horror flick is legitimately pretty good. Here's how I think Saw got some of its bite back:
  • Thriller momentum. For the first time in three years, a Saw movie is exciting, in an old-fashioned what-happens-next sort of way. There are creative traps a-plenty -- some of the most ingenious ones in the series, for those who are into that sort of thing -- but the film doesn't depend on them: it has a semblance of a protagonist, and a story that moves forward, and draws you in, and makes the 90 minutes feel like less. Which is related to my next point, namely: