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Saw V: The Outliving of Usefulness

Movie title: Saw V (2008)
Grade: C + (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Director: David Hackl
Producers: (Exec.) Daniel Jason Heffner, Mark Burg, Oren Koules
Starring: Tobin Bell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell
Genre: Crime-Horror-Mystery
Summation: In this (the fifth) installment of the Saw series, Hoffman remains as the apparent torchbearer of Jigsaw, the infamous murderer, and now it’s time to tie up loose ends.
Spoilers ahead: No


My descriptive title for Saw V can be used to summarize not just part V, but also part IV, in that the series has (sadly) outlived its usefulness. Both movies have some good and bad qualities, and how one views the Saw movies is, of course, open to interpretation. But one thing that should not be disputed is the fact that the Saw series has gotten rather old by now.

I give it a weaker 2 and-a-half stars, and that is fair. But while I can’t give it a glowing recommendation, if you love the Saw series (I, for one, do), then I do recommend that you see this one. It has the same intrinsic qualities as the other Saw movies, and that makes it mostly riveting—very appealing if you are a diehard Saw fan. But to really like it, you’ll have to forgive stiff, lifeless acting on the part of some. You’ll also need to dig the long and arguably too frequent flashbacks that the Saw series has become so famous for. And you’ll have to love splotchy gore, semi-realistic screaming, and the repetition of that used-to-be-chilling phrase: “I want to play a game.”

When all is said and done, what we’ve got here is more of the same stuff as before—a blood-shedding genius is going to gruesomely test the fabric of human nature, and there’s going to be lots and lots of (you guessed it) blood, blood and torture, and long bouts of screaming. Jigsaw is so smart that he manages to stay one step ahead of the police and the FBI the entire time. Ok…we get it…he’s unthinkably smart and sadistic, the epitome of a psychopath who is out to take retribution into his own hands. Got it, ok, ready to move on to something new…but there’s nothing new here to move on to; there’s just more of the same stuff as before.

Saw V may not have anything new, but what it does have is more of what you’ve been itching for—a firm tie-down of explanations as to what transpired. Like the other Saw movies, the movie works backwards and then forwards, tying together everything from all past movies. It explains a lot, like how Kramer has successfully evaded the police and the FBI, and how he managed to have an inside line on capturing his victims. Saw V is not shy in focusing on the theme of the entire Saw series—rehabilitation. Kramer is not a sick serial killer. Oh no! He’s a mechanism of justice, a force against those who have fallen through the cracks of the justice system. If you choose to, you can pass his tests, and when you do, you’ll be immediately rehabilitated. You’ll see life like you never have before; you’ll be reborn; you’ll cherish life like you never thought possible. But the choice is always yours, as were the choices you made that got you tested in the first place!

Of horror series’, Saw is one of the most credible and intriguing ever made, having a real-world pull to it. This separates it from the droves of dyed-in-blood horror movies, consisting of nothing more than cheap screams and mindless murder, built on high stacks of trash writing. The “who done it?” aspect of Saw is not just what makes it shine, but that there is “method behind the madness” of the central villain, and it always makes perfect sense in the end. The same cannot be said of far too many horror flicks, tailor-made for brain-dead bimbos and horny, hug-friendly high school kids, looking for a squeeze on a Friday night at the movies.

But to get anything from it, you had better be a Saw fan and you better be alert! If you haven’t followed closely the other movies, then just forget it. You’ll be lost. And don’t feel bad if you are compelled to see it again to catch up on the details, complicated and confusing as they can be. And don’t feel bad if you feel a slight disconnect from the new room of to-be-slaughtered test subjects. It seems that the writers just couldn’t resist giving the mindless gorehounds in the audience what they wanted in the form of another non-relevant roomful of people to mutilate. It provided nothing helpful to the plot, but I guess exploding shrapnel turning a man into a pile of blood and guts is irresistible to some.

Tobin Bell (John Kramer, “Jigsaw”) does a masterful job of adopting the character of the dark soul, making it his own. But then, that’s not the sort of thing you want to pass on, is it? You just don’t “pass the torch” of criminal genius onto someone else. It’s not as though there are applicants lined up outside to apply for the job, crazy and hideously sick as this world is! But that is exactly where the Saw series has gone. Instead of stopping at the death of Kramer – a brilliant criminal mind who made his mark on the world and then died in infamy – we have sequels propagating the implied continuation of his work through another, thus robbing the series of glory and cheapening its value.

Saw IV and V both reminded me of a certain talk show I saw some years back. The topic was “Elvis, dead or alive?” Guests on the panel consisted of the usual assortment of nutcases who find reason to believe that Elvis Presley never really died. During the entire show, I kept thinking to myself: “He’s dead! Let him go already!” That’s what should have happened with the Saw series. Pound for pound, it died at the end of the third movie (some would say the first, but I’m not in that camp). Now we should let it go. Too much of a good thing (even Tobin Bell) is a bad thing!



  1. Aww, cmon. I for one could not rest with the girl locked in the safe with a limited amount of air from III. The writers tankfully had her "UNTESTED" and alive in saw V. This also allowed for " as you said" the tying of loose ends.

    I will say that I do want to see how " JIGSAWS EX-WIFE" plays out as a character in VI, because of the Lawyer scene from V. " WHATS IN THE BOX?!?!

    Let's just hope that V was the INTERMISSION part of the series, to tie in I-III. I really was dissapointed in IV and V gave me a scant glimmer of hope.

    I think that our new trap setter, though is in a game. I bet you he was the detective involved when his wifes clinic was robbed by the pill addict, and in V he did tell the detective it was time to start their game, as he handed the folder to the detective?

  2. Sorry. The suit's been warn out. It was fascinating to learn more about Kramer, but beyond that, it simply became too much.



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