November 2, 2008

Movie Review: Saw V

saw54_largeThis year they have stepped away from the "Oh yes, there will be blood" in favor of their other tag line: "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw." After seeing the film you will understand why. Yes, there certainly is blood, but it could be the least bloody of the series. Don't get all upset, what is there is quite nice. I mean, you can't rightly have a film like this and not have blood, right? What do you think is the biggest draw of the series? It has to be the blood. It certainly cannot be the epic-reaching plot that tries to be all encompassing with everything and everyone that has appeared in the series. It cannot be the countless characters that are little more than plot devices. Certainly, it cannot be the lack of any other viable theatrical horror franchise. All right, maybe that last one is accurate. At any rate, the fifth film is here, and while it is not a perfect example of the horror-thriller, it is certainly a step up from the last outing.

saw520The Saw franchise is not one that everyone is going to enjoy, but it is one that should be admired. While one would have to dig to discover its relationship to the real world, its ambition is right there on the surface, inviting and alienating at the same time, much in the same way Lost is. I am sure you know what I mean, there is so much great character stuff going in that show that you want to watch, but if you pay attention to the plotting, you are more than likely going to end up with a headache.

As this fifth entry begins, we pick up right after the end of the fourth film. Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) is locked in the room with Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) corpse, a couple other bodies (including Jigsaw's ward, Amanda), and Jeff, whom Strahm had just shot. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) locked the door behind Strahm, allowing Strahm's game to begin, which should have resulted in his death and Hoffman being the hero for "rescuing" Doug's daughter. Of course, if things went as planned we would not have a film. This plan's failure results in a second survivor of Jigsaw's traps (joining the previously revealed Amanda).

saw521So, with Jigsaw dead, once and for all (or until the series decides to take a supernatural twist), Hoffman is left knowing the truth with one major loose end to clean up, the surviving Agent Strahm. Now Hoffman has his work cut for him, for as he goes forward with cleaning up the loose ends, he also has his first game as the new Jigsaw running concurrently.

Strahm plays the role of Greek chorus, making sure to keep us clued in with the plot as he relentlessly talks to himself while looking at clues. Meanwhile, Hoffman is setting a trap to eliminate Strahm, while overseeing his five-person trap, featuring a number of rooms with their own individual tests to survive.

In between these two primary threads, we get flashbacks concerning Hoffman's first encounter with Jigsaw, including the manner in which they come face to face. These flashbacks continue, shoehorning him into earlier traps, implying that he was always there, just out of view, helping set up the events of Saw II, not to mention other games.

saw510Overall, this was a decent entry in the series, although it does seem to be noticeably losing steam as they try to tie everything together. I am very happy to find that the intricate plotting was toned way down from the fourth. However, the tone down in plotting also seems to have sapped it of a lot if its life. A good portion of the middle was quite dull, particularly the lengthy induction of Hoffman into Jigsaw's world.

Seeing the Saw franchise appear to be so enduring just makes me a little sad for having missed the glory years of the 80's horror franchise. That's right, I missed those early years when the big screen was stalked by the likes of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and others. Instead I have to settle for Jigsaw on the big screen, and the occasional decent direct to video slasher.

At any rate, it does not appear that this franchise will be going away anytime soon. With elements within this film, there are threads for at least one or two more entries. So long as the franchise remains profitable, it will continue to be made.

What the franchise needs is the return of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who teamed behind the freshness of the original and returned for the third film, helping it get onto some sort of track. While they may not be the best genre voices, they do have that something to make this franchise just a bit more relevant. Until then, we will continue to get sequels that lack character and purpose.

Bottomline. Yes, this is worth checking out, but only if you are a fan of the series. Do not make this your first entry into the series. This is a series that has not been made to cater to the casual viewer, and will only mean anything to those who have seen the other films. As for that poster tag line: "You won't believe how it ends." the reason you won't believe it is because it is hard to believe they would make a conclusion that transparent.

Mildly Recommended.


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