I don’t know what all the hating is about on the Saw movies. Well, I suppose I do, but I would like more people to like the movies, considering how much I like them. So this of course brings me to my next movie review…
It’s pretty difficult to keep a horror movie franchise going for five installments without the whole story becoming stale and boring. Most notably because in the typical horror movie, the majority of the protagonists don’t make it to the end of the movie. Or at least, they don’t make it there alive and in one piece.
So, it’s easy to see why there would be fairly low expectations of the fifth film in the Saw series, a series of films centering on a not-quite-serial-killer named John, who has been nicknamed Jigsaw, and who has been dead for several films now. Of course, the expectations weren’t that high in the first place, considering the first Saw only scored a whopping 46 on Rotten Tomatoes. (My aggregate movie review site of choice) And the review scores have only gone downhill since then, with this latest installment only receiving a 15 percent positive rating.
It’s obvious why someone wouldn’t like the Saw movies. First and foremost, they are extremely horrifically violent films, with all kinds of gruesome deaths shown on-screen and relatively un-toned down. (I say relatively because the theatrical cuts of the films often have large sections of gory footage removed.) And secondly, the plot of the films continues to build and rely heavily on minor characters from films as far back as the first. (This being an unfortunate side affect of the aforementioned death of all the major characters.)
However, if you are willing to pay attention to the movies, and maybe watch them more than once, you will find a quite interesting and satisfying story which unfolds over the length of the series. The story itself is quite comic-book like in nature. (Meaning, it isn’t very realistic, but you’re expected to take that for granted.)
Now, as for Saw V in particular, I suppose I will need to begin again.
Saw V was released on October 24, 2008; The friday before halloween, as with the tradition set by the previous films. It has a different director than the past three films, which were all directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. (who also was involved in the creation of a quite interesting musical horror number called “Repo, The Genetic Opera”, which you may be interested in checking out.) The first film in the series was directed by James Wan, and he continues to be involved with the production of the series, along with his fellow writer and D-list actor, Leigh Whannell.
The story of Saw V was written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the writers of the previous film, and the story of V jumps off fairly easily from the end of that film. (Which is a somewhat unusual turn for the series, which has been a bit notorious for not making it clear how much time has passed between films) The story itself centers around John, or Jigsaw’s, apprentice–a police detective named Mark Hoffman–and the pursuit of him by Agent Strahm. The story of the film is similar to Saw III in that it features two main narratives which primarily only intersect at the end of the film. The second narrative features five contestants in a series of traps which require “teamwork”, as much as that is really possible in a saw film.
The primary narrative of the film basically involves Agent Strahm discovering some things by delving into Detective Hoffman’s past. Through his discoveries, we learn more backstory. (a frequent device since the death of Jigsaw in the third movie) However, there is a somewhat interesting new element added involving a new character named Seth Baxter, who dies at the beginning of the movie to the hands (steel?) of an un-winnable trap inspired heavily by Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum.”
The primary narrative begins to be fairly dry, but it is the secondary narrative about the reckless fight for survival inside of Detective Hoffman’s latest Jigsaw-style game that really makes the film exciting. The overall series of traps are somewhat straightforward compared to some of the previous films, however this simplification allows the grand scheme of things to be somewhat more clear at the end. Compared to Saw II, in which the viewer is left wondering… “Well, what if they did something else?” So, the trap is certainly less Rube Goldberg-ey and unrealistic. But still, it provides the primary thrust of the film, and helps speed up the otherwise slow (and admittedly boring) primary cat-and-mouse narrative.
The biggest complaint I have about the film is it’s lack of a twist. And that’s not to say that I dislike movies that do not have twists, or that I think that the Saw films must have amazing twists to be really great. The main reason I’m frustrated by the lack of a twist, is that the tagline for the film, “You won’t believe how it ends,” blatantly suggested a killer twist. However, I am here to inform you that there is no twist, and if the only thing that seems like a twist at the end of the film, is in fact supposed to be a twist, I can only pity the writers of the film. As is, the tagline for the film seems to be one of the more ridiculous taglines I’ve seen. Without a twist, the line might as well be attached to any film.
Napoleon Dynamite, you won’t believe how it ends.
The primary narrative of the film is probably the least interesting of the series. But the secondary storyline provides enough thrills to be worth a watch.