Actually, there's a thriller I'd like to see. "ACME: it's part of the puzzle! INVENTION: it's the price of freedom. BEEP! BEEP! it's not that FAST! Super Genius! Oh YES! There will be Feathers!"
But I digress. The subsequent sequels, while managing to fill in (way too many of) the blanks with (way too much of) the growing backstory, they obvious trap evasion became a source of comic relief for me, almost to the point that the constant dopey retconning of the backstory has become fertile laughing ground! In this latter-day tradition, my entire experience with SAW V was marred (or, actually, enhanced in an ironic way) by the fact that virtually every trap in this entire flick was so easy to get around that half the horror was replaced by my obnoxious snickering (not that anybody heard me over their constant click-click-click text messaging).
Yeah, once again I've found myself accidentally in the theatre on opening weekend for a Saw flick! I realize I should've learned my lesson with the even-more-ridiculous-in-hindsight Saw IV! Or, as my Portuguese/ Irish American Amigo Ricardo said the week before last: "Saw V? Ugh. Why would ANYONE wanna see any of the endless Saw sequels? Just total depressing sadistic crap. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Battle Royale and Lynch and Fulci fan. But the Saw movies are utter rubbish. I 'saw' the first Saw and thought it had a good premise and the first 20 minutes worked but that's about it."
Maybe he should stick to the original short film, which ends at the Ten Minute Mark, leaving an extra ten, by Ricardo's reckoning, for longing and anticipation!
Moving on. Saw V, starts much the same as any of the other sequels... with a mood-setting trap-death-causing winces and cringes instead of horror. The film-proper kicks off with some of the same temporal twisting that has become a skull-staple in this whacked series! It's striking how we can spend this much time watching this many sequels and have the plot advance by mere seconds (if that). Yep, we begin right at that end point shared by Saw III and Saw IV. Smilin' Agent Strahm (the always likeable Scott Patterson) has managed a remarkable and painful escape and soon sets about the task of proving that even after death John "Jigsaw" Kramer (Tobin Bell) is pulling the strings of another accomplice as the horror continues.
Naturally this puts both John's ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) and surviving Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor [sounds like a Sith Lord]) on the defensive. It also irritates the shit out of Strahm's boss Dan Erickson (Mark Rolston with a bad mustache). Crap marbles, man, are you seeing this, kids? This initially mysterious and intimately surprising series has now become a gory soap-opera, exponentially revealing more and more of the ostensible man-of-mystery that pulled the once-logical, now-improbable strings of those he blackmails or inspires.
In this regard, Saw V is a sequel to Saw IV, much more than it is to Saw in theme, mood and quality.
As Strahm investigates (without permission, I might add) more and more about Jigsaw and his successor, writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan take us behind-the-scenes of a great number of the murders and traps of the first five movies and reveal that poor little Amanda (Shawnee Smith) was not alone in her discipleship of Kooky Kramer! This, of course, gives us archival footage with Donnie Wahlberg, Angus MacFayden, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer and (at the risk of sounding like a K-TEL Records commercial) MANY, MANY MORE!
Amid all these canon exceptions, we're also given a current group of five prisoners in a virtual repeat of both Saw II and Cube 2! This "Saw Five" consists of the scared blonde chick Brit (Laura Gordon), the awkward stoner Mallick (Greg Bryk), the no-nonsense schemer Luba (Meagan Good), the intelligent survivor Brit (Julie Benz) and even the knowledgeable, yet violent and cruel loaner Charles (Carlo Rota). Yep... Melton, Dunstan and first time helmsman David Hackl all keep their fingers crossed that the gore and starts will distract the audience from the fact that this is all remarkably derivative!
Derivative and easy to get around, as well. These traps are almost too obvious in the evasion factor. Yeah, okay, I get that to an extent this was intentional, as the plight of Saw V's Saw Five is amplified by the fact that they can't seem to work together and see the big picture, but when every step seems to completely ignore the previous puzzle piece, one has to wonder where the sport is in any of this. This, combined with the increasingly sanctimonious faux-morality, the relentless retroactive continuity, the vast over-exposition and the expanding seeming omniscience of one dying cancer patient all work to the detriment of Saw V, where distraction is the only salvation.
I have to wonder if Saw VI (which was already green-lit for October of 09 before this one was released) will consist entirely of irrational, historically inaccurate flashbacks of John having a PBS Children's show (humanizing him even further), while six people sit around in that same filthy bathroom with a little skill saw lying in the middle of the room and the one rule being to walk carefully around it to escape out of the open door. Then I rather imagine each person will somehow accidentally kill themselves with it just before the Ghost of Jigsaw pops up and says "I totally knew you were going to do that! The building blocks from your sordid past were so obvious that you would slip in that particular puddle just then that I pieced this together seven weeks before I was even diagnosed with Cancer, dudes! Score one more for Kramer!" Then, just before the over-filled credits roll, I can see one of the six goofs standing up, turning to the audience and saying "I wasn't even dead! I was a servant of Jigsaw's from the beginning! Then maybe they'll chop off their own foot intentionally just to be shocking.
To be fair, Tobin Bell's acting (even in this increasingly ridiculous "saga") remains good and there's nothing inherently wrong with the special effects, the set design or the directing to any real degree. Saw V is even a thong's width better than Saw IV. Still, it's hard not to think that this film stands merely to validate the existence of Saw VI and to retroactively ruin the unique elements that made Saw a good and surprising film.
Look, folks, I get it... it's business. It's product. The suckers who buy tickets to the Saw sequels (and I'm one of you suckers, so save the hate mail, you douches) no more want anything original than they would have wanted New Coke. They want the same taste over and over again and they get it. Oh, it's bad taste, but at least it tastes the same. It's hard to even fault Lion's Gate for this. They don't have a whole fuckload of flicks that are going to pull in massive bucks, so when they know that something like, say, a Punisher sequel, a cartoon about some kid versions of the Avengers, the comeback of ol' "expendable" Rambo or yet another Saw retread, it's hard to imagine them not taking full advantage. That's what they did with Saw V, which manages to grab only Two Stars out of Five! What's next? You've got my prediction? Meanwhile, I'm going back to the Indies, kids... When a series goes Hollywood, it tends to be some of the worst things you ever SAW! When it comes to this series, someone should have yelled CUT a long time ago! SAW you in the Next Reel!
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