Tobin Bell - John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor - Detective Mark Hoffman
Scott Patterson - Agent Peter Strahm
Betsy Russell - Jill Tuck
Julie Benz - Brit
Greg Bryk - Mallick
Meagan Good - Luba
Genre - Horror/"Torture Porn"
Running Time - 88 Minutes
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
When SAW V was released this past weekend, I wasn't excited about it. Let's face the facts - the fifth installments of many big horror franchises usually disappoint and are just plain awful. Don't believe me? Check this out:
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING - Many fans consider this to be the worst entry in the long running franchise. Why? Because it should have never been made, especially when the entry before it was deemed FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. Paramount Studios got everyone's hopes up thinking Jason Voorhees would return after getting butchered. But noooo...let's put a fake Jason doing the killing instead! That'll make the fans happy! Unfortunately it doesn't work, giving us a mystery that can be solved fifteen minutes into the film. Plus when you have the most annoying characters in the franchise's history, things are gonna go sour. If I ever see Violet [a.k.a. Robot Girl] again, I'm gonna pop and lock her ass into submission.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 5: THE DREAM CHILD - Here's a film that had a really interesting and mature theme that could have made this movie a highlight in the franchise. Instead, these mature ideas are tossed aside for horrible dream sequences [Super Freddy anyone?] and a Freddy Krueger that's no more than a shell of what he used to be in the previous installments. Plus other than "final girl" Alice, the characters weren't worth the paper they were idealized and written on.
HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS - Probably the biggest disappointment of them all. THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS ended with a great conclusion that could have led to very interesting installments. Instead, fans were given the shaft when they pussied out of that ending - instead giving us a horrible storyline where Michael Myers is psychically linked to his neice, Jamie Lloyd, while some Man In Black follows him around like a love sick puppy. And let's not forget that horrible looking mask, bad direction, and a character named Tina that deserves to burn in the pits of Hell for all eternity.
There are so many other fifth installments I could mention here, but you get my drift. So coming into seeing SAW V, I went in with low expectations. And the funny thing is that those expectations were pretty much met. SAW V is as pointless as SAW IV, but I can say at least that it could have been a lot worse.
Continuing from SAW III and SAW IV, we watch Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) struggle with escaping the location where Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died as Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who was revealed in SAW IV to be Jigsaw's secret apprentice, has him trapped there. Strahm has to survive a supposedly unescapable trap if he wants to escape. Being crafty, Strahm manages to outsmart the trap and barely escapes with his life intact.
As Strahm deals with his own trauma, Hoffman is congratulated and promoted for tracking down Jigsaw and solving the case. But once he's able to finally relax, Hoffman receives a note that says "I know who you are". Now rattled this cover may be blown, Hoffman must figure out who knows his true identity. Is it Strahm? Is it Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), who recently received a box from Jigsaw telling her what to do with the contents inside? Or is it someone else entirely?
Meanwhile, five people wake up to find that they're all chained together as some sort of Jigsaw trap. Apparently they've all been privileged and pretty much used it to ruin others, now having to suffer through "rehabilitation" in order to find their way to survive.
Yeah, this film is as interesting as it sounds.
While I was expecting worse, SAW V still fails on many levels. Like I've said countless times before, it's not needed and it makes me wonder how much longer can Lionsgate extend a franchise that was perfectly fine as a trilogy. Nothing in this film really adds all that much to the narrative and has proven that the SAW franchise lost all the unpredictability and originality that made it so powerful and effective to begin with. Yet, I was never bored nor did I hate the film to give it a lower score. It was just a mediocre SAW film, which is something a SAW film should never be.
I will give credit to Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who wrote the horror film FEAST. While the script was as predictable as they come, at least the film was easier to follow than the mess that was SAW IV. While there are multiple sub-plots, at least they all made sense in their own segments. The strongest one, of course, was the Jigsaw-Hoffman flashbacks, which detailed how the two encountered each other and led to Hoffman's recruitment. That's mainly because it's hard to screw with a character like John Kramer and since we're already invested in him, any scenes he's in take priority. I don't feel these flashbacks are necessary really, but at least they were written well.
Even the sub-plot with the five trapped characters is interesting, mainly because that's the only time where the film actually feels like a SAW flick. It actually reminded me of SAW II, where the victims had a common link to each other and through surviving traps was when it would all be revealed. While it's not as involved or as exciting as the narrative in II, at least it was kept simple and to the point so you can be invested in it somehow.
The script does have its problems though. My biggest beef is that the film focused on two characters that have no right carrying any horror film, let alone any film. Having SAW V focus on the most boring conflict of good vs. evil [Strahm vs. Hoffman] pretty much ruins any enjoyment one should have with this film. These two people are dull and not worth investing time into. I still don't understand why these two are the main characters in this "new SAW trilogy". How do you go from interesting characters like Jigsaw, Amanda, Detective Matthews, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, Detective Kerry, etc., to underwritten characters like the ones we have now? And to have these two men carry this storyline is a terrible injustice for any SAW fan. It's bizarre to me.
I also found that the sub-plots didn't work together as well as they should have. They just didn't have a cohesive feel and I was wondering if SAW V was really three different movies in one. It kind of all came together at the end, but not enough for it to really be effective.
And the ending that "you won't believe how it ends" was kind of disappointing. It just shows how badly written certain characters are when one of them ends up being the biggest dumbass in a span of 3 minutes. I couldn't believe how much viewers had to be forced to invest in such a stupid fuck of a character for two films. And as for a twist, the only twist I got was that I was ripped off 12 bucks to watch this and that there will be another sequel. Sigh...
The traps in SAW V are probably the tamest of all the traps in this franchise. They were really old school and traps I would expect to see a magician in Las Vegas use to wow the crowd. They sort of came across as unoriginal, but I still kind of liked them nonetheless. The pendulum bit was kind of cool, as well as the water box trap, the trap that involved pints of blood to release the survivors, and the final trap right at the end [as much as I disliked the actual ending, at least the visuals for it were pretty cool]. Gore hounds probably won't be into this one as they are in the other installments, but I didn't mind it all that much.
The direction by David Hackl wasn't all that bad. Taking over for Darren Lynn Bousman, Hackl is pretty much a point and shoot type of guy. The crazy cuts and shaky cam are done at a minimum, which is a plus. He's very subtle and keeps the visuals very grounded. It doesn't totally feel like a SAW film but it's a nice looking film that works well enough on the eyes. Not a bad debut for Hackl. It's just a shame he couldn't work with better and stronger material.
The acting, on the other hand, was pretty flawed. Tobin Bell was still great as John Kramer/Jigsaw. His scenes were the strongest in the film and it amazes me how these producers continue to use a dead character to extend a story that doesn't deserve to be as long and detailed as it is. I also enjoyed Betsy Russell as well as the ex-wife. I think her performance here was just as good here as it was in SAW IV. I also liked the acting of the five victims, especially Julie Benz, who's best known for her work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and especially on Dexter. Her character sucked but I like Benz in anything she does. Too bad she had to wear a horrible wig too. What was up with that?
However, Scott Patterson and Costas Mandylor were pretty bland as the main characters of the film. Patterson doesn't really have enough charisma to turn Strahm from a stereotypical detective to a three-dimensional character. Plus he had to talk with a raspy voice due to something that happens to him at the beginning of the film, which came in-and-out everytime he spoke. He doesn't make a convincing good guy and I didn't care about him at all. As for Mandylor, if there was an award for "Best Mafia Boss Wannabe", this guy would take it by a landslide. He never comes across as a menacing villain. He actually comes across as a bored actor desperately trying hard to be a genius badass. I don't buy this dude at all and I can't see any one who would. It's like a joke and he's the only one in on it. They made two SAW films and are making another one for this Mandylor dude? Who is this guy sleeping with and where is the evidence he's holding over the producers heads that prove this? I really don't get it.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WISHING THIS FRANCHISE ENDED TWO MOVIES AGO
- Don't ever fall behind when going after the key to your survival. You'll fall heads over heels at the consequences to your snail-like behavior.
- Jigsaw blackmailed Hoffman into working for him. Apparently he also blackmailed someone at Lionsgate studios for continuing this franchise. I smell nude pix and a sex tape!
- Don't ever try and steal someone's key that leads to a bomb shelter. The bashing to your head that created that terrible headache is just the beginning of an explosive night.
- Don't mess with Julie Benz when her life is at stake. She's been dating a serial killer for three seasons, plus she used to be a vampire longer than that. The ways you can be murdered increase tenfold whenever she's around, so don't be shocked by the results of your actions.
- Don't put your enemy in a trap that was meant for you. You'll look like nothing but a dumbass. You may need no education but you'll still just be another brick in the wall.
THE FINAL HOWL
SAW V is a hit and miss for me. I did enjoy some elements of the film, but the rest of it was too flawed for me to ignore. For those who haven't seen SAW V, make sure to watch the others. This film is basically for SAW fans only since it never explains much of anything from previous films and pretty much just continues where the last one left off. It could have been a lot worse though and I'm surprised this fifth installment still managed to entertain on some level. I'm not looking forward to SAW VI next year, but I'll be there because Jigsaw blackmailed me into watching it. I knew I should have never taken those compromising photos with that Jigsaw doll...