Saw V. 2008. Directed by David Hackl. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Rolston, Carlo Rota, Greg Bryk, Laura Gordon, Joris Jarsky, and Mike Butters. Twisted Pictures. Rated R. 92 minutes.
From this sequel on, I believe the Saw series loses its way in terrible fashion. This one in particular is about on par with the second film in the series, as they have their flaws. After Saw V, things get really bad.
That being said I do think there are a few things to admire about this film. For one, I think some of the traps in this one were, yes, brutal but also held a sort of creepily admirable quality. The stunts of the film themselves are enough to impress me – Scott Patterson did in fact do the water tank scene himself. I also like how there’s nothing silly in the way of some later films in the Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and other similar franchises, in the sense Jigsaw is dead; no changing that fact. There’s no resurrecting him, but instead his apprentices and, in a sense, victims go on to further his dark legacy.
What Saw V has going for it is more continuity in the story of Jigsaw, his apprentices, and some of what got introduced in the previous film. Going against it is less and less of the gritty, ultra grim style the first and third films had, which became to slip away again in Saw IV. What we’re left with is a decent horror movie with an interesting story, but too much concern once more for shock horror above character development/logic, atmosphere, and solid tension.
Saw V sees five strangers – or are they? – trapped in a massive game set in place by Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer (Tobin Bell). Told to ignore their instincts, each of them strive to fight against one another in a brutal, vicious competition.
At the same time, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) makes it out alive from the building where Jigsaw enacted one of his games, as well as the place where he would end up dying. Lieutenant Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has also come away, mostly unscathed, and so Strahm – beaten and now scarred by the deadly game – tries to prove Hoffman is an apprentice to the Jigsaw Killer.
What unfolds is the story of Hoffman’s history with Jigsaw, as well as the pursuit of Strahm to find the truth and stop all the senseless killing once and for all.
How did Mark Hoffman manage to make traps on his own? How did he make the first pendulum trap to mirror Jigsaw? He’s not an engineer, I can’t imagine his police expertise would lead him to have the ability to construct such elaborate pieces of machinery. Maybe I missed something? Doubt that, I actually rewatched this and learned a couple small details I’d missed before now. I don’t think I’ve missed an explanation on how Hoffman managed to do that initially. Seems like a bit of a gaping hole in character logic. This is one thing that really threw me off, as soon as it came into my brain. I mean, can anybody explain this? We’re never given anything in the way of backstory on how Hoffman actually managed to construct the trap he used on the man who killed his sister. I was always onboard with the traps because Jigsaw was an engineer – even as he got weaker, he had an apprentice to help him put things together, construct it for him. But before Hoffman met Jigsaw/was kidnapped by him, there’s no way he could have come up with the whole pendulum trap on his own. It’s too complex for a layman to simply draw up on a piece of paper then put together by themselves.
Personally I enjoy the whole thing going on with Hoffman, though, I think the script is lacking in regards to a couple aspects, such as how he managed to initially come up with his pendulum trap without any engineering knowledge that I’m aware of. Having Strahm investigate Hoffman, going back to some of the Jigsaw crimes like bits from the first one (remember the barbed wire trap with the near naked guy stuck in the middle?), it’s a lot of fun and also exciting.
What I think hinders this fifth film most is the scenario of the five people trapped in the latest game. Even in the second movie, which I wasn’t huge on, I still thought the big game with all those people trapped in the house was intriguing. Here, there’s even less intrigue, as the cerebral is completely gone. Even the visceral aspects of Saw V don’t come off in the way other horror movies allow the blood and gore to work, effectively scaring people instead of going all for the shock factor; tension, suspense, building things up can take a gory scene and make it work on a higher level than just a scene to show of special effects. This survival of the fittest competition these people have to endure is just TORTURE NONSENSE! Here is where the “torture porn” aspects of the Saw series really take things over wholesale and go running. Sad too because these movies have plenty of potential for being horror mystery movies with a bit of brains, instead they start descending quicker and quicker with every film into mostly torture for the sake of torture.
While I enjoyed Saw IV enough, with the whole angle of Rigg being forced to step into Jigsaw’s shoes in a sense and the script with its interesting twist, plus the exciting finale, there’s not much here to enjoy in that vein. I’m not overly impressed with the script, as much of it is wasted on the group of people trapped together trying desperately to survive; this was tiresome, as there’s barely enough time for characterization when the bulk of the story has to do with Hoffman/Strahm, and there’s also the fact it was mostly shock and awe trying to get to us instead of any effective technique in order to creep us out with confidence.
All around, I find Saw V to be tedious. There’s enough here to give this a 2.5 rating, but no way I can even fathom giving it more. There are decent effects at times, however, most of the traps are beyond uninspired, the torture is fetishized even worse than it ever has been in the series, and the script is pretty damn lazy.
I actually own all the Saw films up to and including this one. While I’m only a real big fan of the first and the third film, finding the fourth half decent, there’s something about the series I enjoy enough to keep watching. However, past this one the last two movies are real bad. Things just devolve into a mess and by the seventh Saw it’s similar to how later Jason Voorhees efforts looked: laughable, contrived, too silly to take seriously on any level. I’ll watch them over again, simply for review purposes. If you haven’t seen the last two, you could honestly skip them over; some might say that about a lot of this series. Either way, you’ll see some nasty stuff, whether or not it’s scary is a whole other can of worms.