Horror, Sadistic Horror
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Fall is a great time of year. The weather's nice, the leaves are changing, Christmas is just around the corner. Then of course, you've got Halloween. For most of us, this means kicking back with some snacks and a stack of horror classics. For Hollywood, it means pumping out a few mediocre horror films that the masses will eat up like nobody's business. So now Halloween means something a little different - we're treated to a new Saw movie. I thought that maybe after the fourth installment the series was back on track and the last two movies would breathe a little life back into the horror scene. If Saw V is any indication of where the series, and horror in general, is headed, it's going to be a sad couple of years for horror fans.
Review by Tristan
Added: October 25, 2008
For those of you who haven't seen Saw IV you're in for some spoilers. I apologize, but there really isn't anything that can be done about that. My suggestion to you is to go watch 4, or at least read the review, then come back to this.
Tonight's film begins with Agent Strahm (Scott Peterson) busting in on Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) events from Saw III and realizing that there was another accomplice besides Amanda working alongside Jigsaw the whole time. This accomplice is FBI agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) who we are introduced to in Saw IV. As it turns out, he had everything set up to be the only survivor of this nightmare, but didn't count on Strahm's quick thinking to get himself free. So not only does Hoffman have to worry about Strahm getting closer in his investigations, he's also got to put together a new game to carry on Jigsaw's legacy.
This is the part where the movie starts to take a dive. Ironically, it's also supposed to be the main focus of these films. Five people wake up in a room collared to a pulley system. Of course there has to be some kind of twist, so directly behind them at neck level are two razor sharp blades. They don't know it yet, but all of them are connected in some way, and they're going to have to work together if they want to escape this trap and many more like it in order to survive and figure out why they've all been placed inside another Jigsaw puzzle.
What are the Saw films really supposed to be about? Some people would say the twist ending, others would say the creative genius of the traps. If you came for the twist ending, I have to let you know there isn't one. Personally I figured out the movie's ending after about 30 minutes. Not because I'm a super genius, but because it was so damn predictable, I figured it was the only thing they could possibly do - and they did it. As for the traps, what traps? The group of five people moved from room to room killing each other to get to the last stage. These weren't traps but a race against time with an "only the strong survive" mentality. Not very creative, as all the rooms were full of bombs, and I could have cared less about any of the characters. This movie really served no purpose. All it managed to do was explain the "twist" from the fourth film and leave a few unanswered questions for the last film. I suppose it was necessary for all the people who couldn't figure out the ending, but for those of us who did, it was pointless. Whereas Saw IV started a whole new concept, this movie was really just a transitional film between 4 and 6. Necessary in that sense, but it offered nothing new or noteworthy to the viewer.
I was hoping after the fourth one that this Halloween I'd have a decent movie to look forward to. Unfortunately, it was pretty damn awful. Of course I'll still watch 6, as I'd like to see how the whole series wraps itself up, but I'm not expecting it to be at all good. If you're a fan of the franchise I suppose this one's worth a watch, but I personally didn't care for it. There isn't much to it as a stand alone horror film, and until 6 comes out, I'd have to say this is the weakest entry in the series. It really is a shame looking back on just how clever the first film was, then seeing what the movies have become. I think it's safe to say the Saw movies are about as dead as Jigsaw himself.
So, here's the deal - I hate the "Saw" franchise and what it's become. I get sick and tired of having to listen to people defend this crap year after year, attempting to justify why films like this have any purpose whatsoever. Some will say 'to entertain the fans'. Well, if this is the quality if cinema that fans want, it's no wonder why cinema is in such a sad state these days. Some will say 'it's to finish out the storyline'. When the original "Saw" was released, do you think they had sequels in mind? They didn't even know if the film would make a dime, much less warrant a sequel. I don't see how any film with an automatic turnaround time of one-year could ever amount to much. I saw the first of the "Saw" films in 2004, on opening night. I enjoyed the film - that is until Mr. Cary Elwes went on one of the worst acting rants in cinematic history. That scene alone pretty much destroyed the film for me. The next year, I caught "Saw II" in theatres. It was the same old tired story and had a very generic approach to it. I made the decision to skip "Saw III" and "Saw IV" altogether in theatres. Don't ask me why I decided to see "Saw V", having no back story from the previous two films. I was just in the mood for some blood and some horror and some graphic images, which this Halloween season has been sorely lacking. I didn't go in expecting to understand everything I was seeing. I went in expecting to see another lame retread of the original film. And, although I am not going to recommend the film, it did change my opinion of the franchise somewhat.
The film opens in an unfortunate situation for one man. It seems he has been strapped down to a table, with a large pendulum blade hanging above. Jigsaw pops on the television screen and explains that those boxes next to him are for his hands. You see - the man was a murderer who was released on a technicality. Jigsaw tells the man he can either stick his hands in the boxes and have his bones bounded to dust or get cut in half by the pendulum getting ever-so closer to his torso. This grisly murder scene is the opening for "Saw V". The rest of the film deals with Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) trying to stay hidden as the new Jigsaw killer and Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) trying to get to the bottom of the Jigsaw mystery. Tobin Bell pops up in flashbacks as the infamous Jigsaw killer, and we do feel the finality that this might be the original Jigsaw's last dance. A side plot exists involving a group of five people trapped together in a room and given certain rules, culminating in a series of horrific deaths and lots and lots of the corn syrup and red food coloring. By the end of the film, "Saw V" wants to have tricked you into thinking lots of different things. It wants to sweep the rug out from underneath you and leave you excited about "Saw VI" next year. And, in the grand scheme of things, I suppose it does just that. It doesn't seek finality. It runs from it.
My initial reaction to this franchise was negative. It just didn't seem to have the same steam and the same longevity as a "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th" franchise. I still don't put it in the same league as those. The "Saw" films - no matter what you want to say - will always be that same breed of torture porn that has plagued cinema for a few years now. The "Saw" films cater to the worst aspects of the human psyche and they demonstrate just how depraved mass audiences can be when starved for traditional quality horror. If Vincent Price were still making horror films, I don't know that we'd have any need for watching women getting electrocuted before nail bombed into a thousand sloppy pieces. I sincerely want someone to sit me down and explain to me how watching a man struggle for his life in a maze of razor wire could serve as entertainment? Is this really what audiences want to be doing with their time? Maybe it's that old psychology - everyone has the potential to kill, it's just that some of us act on it and some of us do not. Maybe those of us who don't act on it need films like "Saw V" to keep the demons at bay. Maybe those of us who don't act on it need to watch the most graphic and disturbing images possible to maintain a certain level of blood lust to prevent us from going on a rampage in a clock tower. If someone can sit me down and explain that to me, maybe I will have even more tolerance for this new sub-genre.
But, for the fans - "Saw V" serves its purpose. There is a storyline in this film, which is something I cannot say for the second picture in the series. I found myself actually wrapped up in the mystery, even with Scott Patterson's character talking to himself way too much and Costas Mandylor's constant mugging for the camera. Tobin Bell was the highlight of the picture, and he's become a far better actor since 2005, turning into the poor mans Hannibal Lecter. "Saw V" takes all of the same elements that made the first four films so successful and just manipulates them a little. It doesn't want to mess with a good thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I suspect "Saw VI" will follow the exact same formula - it will open with a gruesome murder and close with a revelation that lets the audience know there will definitely be another film in the series. "Saw V" made $30 million this weekend and would have been #1 at the box office if not for the "High School Musical" film. As long as these films keep making lots of money on shoestring budgets, you bet your ass Lionsgate is going to keep churning them out. "Saw" has become their cash-cow. "Saw" allows them to spend so much more money on their more independent efforts. I guess that makes it okay.
In summation, I do not recommend "Saw V". But, I don't dislike it as much as the other films in the series. Maybe I have just settled down a little and started to appreciate the franchise for what it really is - a second rate "Hellraiser" - basically, "Home Alone" for the sadistic. What I can say is that I would love to see this franchise stray a little from the original formula. Show me something new. Give me some insight into the talents that made the original "Saw" so original and so unexpected. Right now, all we're getting is the same tired old stories with different twists. "Saw V" is one of the better installments in the franchise and it kept me entertained, so I won't bash it as badly as I have bashed the other films. That should make you "Saw"-heads rather jubilant.
- added 10/25/2008, 11:34 PM
I actually really enjoyed this. But using your
"why do you watch these films"
mentality, I could see why you wouldn't. However,
I watch these movies to see Jigsaw's master plan
unfold, which is all this one really accomplished.
I will say though, I've got mixed feelings about
VI. On the one hand, I'm excited to see the grand
revelation, but Hoffman is not nearly as effective
as the original Jigsaw.
- added 10/27/2008, 08:14 AM
I think I've grown a little tired of critics
bashing the "Saw" films.
Sure, they're not Oscar winners - however, they
are not made for film critics. They are made for
the fans. And judging by the yearly box office
returns - there are quite a few "Saw"
Remember a time when the
"Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on
Elm St." producers were churning out sequels
virtually every year, just to make a quick
It's not wrong for Lionsgate
& Twisted Pictures to continue to make these
movies if the fans keep paying to see them.
The "Saw" producers actually
CARE about the story continuity and making a
quality product for the fans.
watch these films because of the so-called
"torture porn" scenes (I am so sick and
tired of hearing that phrase used to describe any
horror film with violence nowadays) - I watch them
for the story and for the interesting way that
they piece the puzzle together every single
The non-linear storyline is
fascinating to me and I look forward to "Saw
- added 10/27/2008, 12:32 PM
Wow. I just sent in my review for "Saw
V". It was before I read this latest post.
The Red Clover
- added 11/03/2008, 04:27 AM
Here's the thing about the "Saw"
series. It's a theme movie for a certain time of
the year. Although I agree with certain points in
each fantastic review and the scores. I'd consider
it a 4 because of the lack of sophistication in
some of this installments contraptions.
I think they are becoming redundant and I agree
that if this is "quality entertainment"
then our film industry is in a rather sad state
(except if you're me and just love how realistic
gore looks nowadays being gore-hound myself I can
still step outside of my opinion and acknowledge
certain truths) however, the "Saw"
franchise has opened near Halloween every year and
this is just good marketing because let's be
honest, these types of movies have been done, some
better then the more high budget ones. I am just
in a group of people who want to go out on a cold
October evening and catch, "a horror
film." We lack the grindhouses, the
nitty-gritty movie theaters that showed "the
Rocky Horror Picture Show" among a wide
selection of exploitation films. Sure they were
poorly written, sure the graphics were sub-par but
damn it I want to laugh, see blood and throw my
popcorn and "Saw" has helped me achieve
this for the last five years. This is why I can't
fault the series.
I think that's how
a movie like this works so well. It really is a
date movie for October.