Saturday, March 26, 2011

SAW V (2008) - REVIEW

With the franchise firmly rooted in the public's mind, the routine of a "Saw" movie each year was no longer surprising to anyone. With "Saw IV" expanding the universe, it was obvious that the series was far from over. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan returned to writing duties, but Bousman would not resume his duties as director. Instead, David Hackl, the production designer on parts II, III and IV, took over . An odd choice if you ask me. Were the studios out of options ?

The story picks up right where "Saw IV" ended, with Detective Hoffman revealing himself as the new Jigsaw and FBI agent Strahm killing Jeff in self-defense. We also learned that the plot of part IV was running in parallel with the plot of part III. And like that, these little summaries become excruciatingly complicated. Strahm immediately gets strapped to a Hoffman-Jigsaw trap. He escapes in quite an ingenious way, to Hoffman's surprise. Alas, a villain's work is never done. Because agent Strahm refuses to let go and starts his own investigation, that takes him back to some familiar Jigsaw cases, Hoffman has to find a way to keep his identity hidden. In the meantime, a new five-people game begins. Party time !

"Oh, look ! It's Jigsaw, dead, from two movies ago !"
There’s a certain point that the franchise has reached with part V, where the screenplay writing process is probably more similar to that of a TV series'. How do we move the story along ? Who stays for the next episode ? Who dies ? What cliffhanger ending should we have for this episode ? How can we complicate things further. For those who are familiar with the “Saw” universe, it is a well known fact that the story is very complicated with a twist-ladden plot that spans throughout all the five films so far. It’s so dense already, that it should probably have a “Previously on Saw...” intro. Otherwise, it's impossible to come on board this late in the series. In fact, they’ve extended Jigsaw’s world so much, that they’ve lost whatever good ideas they had going in. They managed to remove the villain and replace him with a character which fails to generate any interest or terror, and somehow decided to spend some serious amounts of running time tying up loose ends from previous “episodes”. On top of that, Hoffman's origin story is even worse than Jigsaw's. The traps, a trademark of the series, once symbolic and meant to reflect the darkness of human nature and test the limits of survival have become increasingly elaborate pieces of art direction, impossible to build by less than a construction crew, rather than just the two-three people the writers intend for us to believe are behind the elaborate planning.

Bath Time.
David Hackl brings just as much to the franchise as Bousman did for parts III and IV : absolutely nothing. The directorial vision is more likely dictated by David A. Armstrong’s desaturated and gritty cinematography and Kevin Greutert’s schyzophrenic editing. Also, someone had the hilarious idea of casting Costas Mandylor as a villain. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. I mean, the man simply can’t act to save his life, and all of a sudden he becomes the evil core of a horror franchise. It’s an idea more sinister, actually, than the concept of Jigsaw himself. Tobin Bell had a good grip on his creepy character and the man can actually act. His deep raspy voice has become a staple of the series. The man made Jigsaw work.

Good news however for the gore hounds : there’s plenty of it, most of it as gratuitous as ever. Gratuitous, because there’s no connection between the audience and what’s happening on-screen. It’s no longer about Jigsaw dealing a sort of twisted justice and people surviving his traps. The violence is a trademark here, but it’s nothing more than that anymore. It’s all heavily edited with a cacophonic industrial soundtrack and a wide range of screams. Everything is hollow and pointless. Jigsaw has been reduced to sub-basic serial killer fare.

All in all, “Saw 5” is an ugly, violent, overblown, stupid, badly acted, boring and pointless film. Its box-office gross was extremely dissapointing and for good reason. If word-of-mouth really works then it's safe to assume the word got around that this movie is a complete waste of money.

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