With a poorly-executed fourth chapter, one would expect the departure of series director Darren Lynn Bousman as a spanner in the works with production designer David Hackl standing up to the challenge of directing the fourth sequel in the splatter franchise. Thank your lucky stars that this film is better than IV.
After “escaping” the Gideon Meat Factory and “saving” the little girl from Saw III, Detective Mark Hoffman is credited as the cop who brought a demise to Jigsaw and his devastating grip on the community with his seemingly never-ending list of victims and traps. Agent Strahm, however, has a different idea. He knows that there is, in fact, a protégé to Jigsaw’s legacy working a new trap, but can he find this protégé and save the victims of the trap in time?
Straight off the bat, Saw V is much more easily understandable than it’s immediate predecessor (with the producers even admitting that ten minutes into their audio commentary – what courage they have!), but it’s not as groundbreaking as Saw III. It is still filled with back story that may confuse people new to the franchise, but will help long-term fans realise certain aspects of John Kramer’s plan – but the not the entire plan (thank god for sequels, eh?!)
There are pretty much three films in one, three storylines in this film, and I’ll cover each.
The main story (pretty much) is the one that focuses on Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) and his hunt for John Kramer’s protégé. Patterson gives a good performance and helps us want to help him find the next Jigsaw, despite us knowing who it actually is from the ending in Saw IV. One thing I didn’t understand was a lot of stuff that interweaved with backstory of Hoffman and Kramer setting up traps (such as the razor wire cage and house trap from the first two films) and simply by looking through a hole or looking at a certain part of the environment, Strahm immediately came up with the flashback we are shown simply by observing one aspect of the environment – that’s not good writing, folks.
The second story, or the one that is less important than the main story, is the traps and victims. It’s four concurrent rooms and all five victims play their parts, especially dealing with the traps, quite well. However, I can never get over Julie Benz’s wig – it’s horribly half-arsed. The traps are gruesome and crazy, especially the last trap, but the significance of these certain five is never explained in basic detail in regards to the current plot besides the fact they are connected by real estate and a fire. While small details that are explained in a sequel that aren’t important to the current plot I can let go, something as big as this needs to be explained, and it’s something IV and V have done to a T (unlike II and III) and it, while it may bring fans back to the cinema each year, is not smart for a singular film, and takes away enjoyment of it.
The third story is involving, more often than not, backstory of how and why Hoffman became a protégé of John Kramer. While the reasoning is interesting, and one specific scene where between Hoffman and Kramer is excellent, of course, with every scene involving Tobin Bell’s John Kramer being excellent, it isn’t a strong story on its own, and is made to link into Strahm’s story.
A fourth, more miniature, story is provided involving Jill Tuck and Kramer’s will and last wishes which is not fleshed out in this film, and that’s something that I don’t mind, that I mentioned earlier. Tuck receives a box from her now-dead ex-husband, John Kramer. We, the audience, don’t see what’s in the box, but Tuck does. It’s not important to Saw V‘s plot, at least as far as I can see, and will be important to Saw VI‘s plot (I hope), but it’s something that’s not explained in V that is to be explained in VI. Seeing as it doesn’t have a significant impact on Saw V‘s plot (as of yet), I can let it go, unlike the significance of the five victims in the Four Rooms Traps which should have been explained, I think, because it leaves you empty, unfulfilled.
These movies are meant to be watched over and over again for Saw fans and are meant to build upon the story of John Kramer, but if you are a fan of these films, and watch just one (say, one night, you feel like watching a Saw film, and choose V) you will lose track of information you’re being presented with, especially after having not seen it in a while. I can only hope that the Chronological Cut comes out of all six films instead of further sequels. If they’re so intent of releasing films filling in gaps between the films, why not do it in a way that won’t confuse people and will stop the making of unnecessary sequels?
The Blu-Ray presentation is quite good. The image clarity is near perfection, despite the leaving out of my favourite aspect – “glossy grit” – but still looks freakin’ good for a Blu-Ray disc. I noticed no digital artefacting and no film artefacts (I assume, by now, they are shooting these on high definition cameras). The sound is crisp and clear and does its job well.
In the features, two commentaries are presented. The first is with production designer-turned-director David Hackl, who I believe did quite a good job with his first film (apparently, he’ll be directing Saw VII), as much good you can do with a franchise horror movie, at least, and hearing him talk about the film was refreshing instead of Darren Lynn Bousman. I love Bousman and his movies (well, most of them, save for IV), but having a new director with a different perspective helped my enjoyment of Saw V on Blu-Ray as a whole. Hackl is accompanied by First Assistant Director Steve Webb, who seems to be the funnier one of the two. It’s an enjoyable commentary with some nice anecdotes on production but is still pretty light but I would choose it over the second commentary, which is hosted by The Big Four producers (Oren Koules, Mark Burg, Peter Block and Jason Constantine) also seem to have learned from their problems on their Saw IV commentary as there was less self-congratulating and more teasing of things such as Jill’s box and the significance of the five victims which made it slightly more interesting to listen to. More often than not I couldn’t tell who was speaking or whether two of them were talking and the other two were just sitting and making sure they didn’t slip up any revealing details. There are five (how surprising) featurettes provided: Slicing The Cube: Editing The Cube Trap, The Cube Trap, The Fatal Five, The Pendulum Trap, The Coffin Trap. All are lightweight, but again two stand out. Slicing the Cube is interesting to seeing how they could take morsels of Scott Patterson’s performance (seeing as his head couldn’t just be under water forever) and make a frenetic and actually quite scary scene. The Fatal Five is the longest, I believe, of the trap featurettes and provides insight into all the traps in the Four Rooms and is interesting to see what practical effects they used in certain scenes that makes it interesting (watch Meagan Good gets freaked out at a moving headless corpse!)
The film, like IV, leaves you feeling a bit empty, but fills you up more and more each time you watch it. Interpret that however you wish, positively or negatively, but is certainly an improvement over IV, despite it being and average film, when you think about it. I look forward to Saw VI, especially having watched all five films beforehand like this, but with the announcement that a seventh film is on the way doesn’t fill me with hope. Saw V is not a necessary addition to your horror collection, but if you are a diehard fan, go for it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to fill in gaps from the movies but the way they’re going about it is leaving gaps in the explanation of gaps left in previous films, leaving you going – “What?”. Three skulls.