Saw V

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/24/08 10:31:57

"Nothing Really Matters"
1 stars (Sucks)

The original “Saw” was, at least until its last ten minutes, a reasonably intriguing horror film that provided viewers with a few interesting plot twists, some creepy visuals and a few fiendishly inventive torture device designed by its chief villain, the serial killer known as Jigsaw, to ensnare people whom he felt were wasting the precious gift of life. (I’m not the only one to think so--the film actually played at both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals.) The next year, “Saw II” came out and all the people who considered the original to be the best thing to hit the horror genre in a while were disappointed to discover that the film was basically a piece of paint-by-numbers crapola that discarded all the cleverness and intelligence of the original and replaced with increasingly gory set-pieces that viewers could barely even see thanks to an incredibly grungy visual style that transformed the simple act of watching the film into a chore. Sadly, this sequel became even more popular than the original and so the next two years saw the clockwork releases of the increasingly gruesome and idiotic “Saw III” and “Saw IV” and by this time, the screenplays had become just as murky as the visual style--so much so, in fact, that even the most dedicated fans of the series (yes, such people do exist) were often at a loss to explain what the hell was going on at any given moment . Now we have “Saw V” and it is both more and less the same thing that we have been getting for the last few years--more in the sense that the storyline has become so fractured and convoluted that I defy anyone to make heads or tails out of it and less in the sense that not even the big gore sequences seem to have much of an impact anymore, if the reaction of the crowd that I saw it with was any indication.

Then again, I suppose that it is a little tricky to come up with a coherent and plausible storyline when your killer definitively shuffled off of this mortal coil two films earlier. “Saw IV” tried to get around this problem by telling a confusing story that apparently took place more or less in tandem with “Saw III” and by including numerous flashbacks of its anti-hero (Tobin Bell) that explained how he became Jigsaw. This time around, the story more or less kicks off where “Saw IV” ended (actually, I think it kicks off at the end of “Saw III” but never mind) and immediately makes the shocking revelation that Jigsaw had a heretofore unknown second assistant who helped him set up all the elaborate traps and clean up afterwards. That aide-de-camp turns out to be none other than Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), the cop who has just been decorated for cracking the string of Jigsaw-related murders. However, federal agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) becomes convinced that Hoffman has some connection to Jigsaw and tries to put the pieces together by visiting the familiar sites from the earlier films and experiencing flashbacks to incidents that he could not have possibly been witness to. While this confusing game of cat-and-mouse is going on, we are introduced to a new quintet of people who wake up in a deserted warehouse and find themselves trying to outwit the various traps that have been placed in their paths while trying to piece together what it is that unites them and why they have been selected for what is essentially an ultra-violent self-help seminar run by arguable the most judgmental and hypocritical serial killer in slasher film history. (What else can you say about a guy who kidnaps people, places them in elaborate traps from which escape is virtually impossible unless they gruesomely mutilate themselves or each other and then has the stones to repeatedly insist “I’ve never killed anyone.”)

The grand history of fifth installments of long-running horror franchise is not a particularly illustrious one but this particular one is weak enough to make the likes of “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” or “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” look like masterpieces of the genre by comparison. None of the previous “Saw” sequels have been any good, of course, but I don’t remember them showing the utter contempt for their loyal audiences that this one does. For starters, the storyline is such a jumbled mess of flashbacks and flash-forwards that I defy anyone out there to offer up a coherent timeline of when everything is supposed to take place. The stuff involving the cop who winds up working along side Jigsaw and the FBI agent following him around doesn’t work at all because most of it requires that you have not only seen all the previous installment but that you watched all of them exactly ten minutes before seeing this one. The stuff involving the new characters being put through their grisly paces within the new Jigsaw set-up is even worse because they are all such hateful, self-centered jerks that we don’t care at all when they either reach their personal epiphanies or bleed out on the floor and when the stunning revelation about what exactly it is that links them together is finally made, my guess is that virtually everyone watching will be thoroughly under whelmed. Finally, the gore sequences, while certainly icky and nasty and further proof that the MPAA is nothing but a joke, simply fall flat as well. This time around, one guy is torn apart by a swinging pendulum even as he voluntarily crushes his own hands in a effort to set himself free, one performs an emergency tracheotomy on himself in order to survive a drowning attempt, people stick their hands into band saws in order to relieve themselves of 10 pints of blood to unlock a trap and, in a moment that I can only assume is a grotesque homage to the Russ Meyer classic “Supervixens,” a woman is beaten to death, dumped in a bloody bathtub and has electrical cable attached to her so that she can sizzle in the tub while others make their escape. By the way, I would once again like to cite that in most of the cases, these tortures were designed by someone who claims that “I’ve never killed anyone” and “Killing is distasteful.”

Now that I think about it, with their glowing depiction of torture as entertainment as performed by someone who claims that he isn’t really doing anything and if he is, it is because he alone has decided that the victims deserve it, one could probably write an interesting paper about the “Saw” films being a strange cinematic analogue for the Bush years that they were released in. Of course, writing such a book would require actually sitting through these goddamn things again and quite frankly, I would just as soon undergo one of Jigsaw’s traps that do that. “Saw V” is a bloody bore from beginning to end and the only scenes in the movie that come close to being scary are the ones that seem to have been inserted solely to set up a possible “Saw VI.”

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