It may not be such a rarity these days for a premise with a central character to make its way to a sequel or even a trilogy. Something has to be said when a film franchise gets into the higher number of installments — a pentalogy is certainly worth some praise. That, however, is all the accolades I can imbue upon Saw V.
Picking up pretty much where the lackluster previous film Saw IV left off, Saw V takes up the case as Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) further investigates the Jigsaw mystery. In Strahm’s sights since the last film (in which he was an unwilling participant) is fellow cop Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), whom we now know was actually Jigsaw’s accomplice and now the sole torch bearer of his cruel, twisted death games. As Strahm goes through the case files (a great many scenes are told via flashbacks) in an attempt to build a case against Hoffman, five new game participants — Luba (Meagan Good), Brit (Julie Benz), Mallack (Greg Bryk), Ashley (Laura Gordon) and Charles (Carlo Rota) — are chosen to partake in a new round of grisly fun.
Fans of the franchise will undoubtedly take comfort in the tests these poor bastards are put through, as there is plenty of bloodletting and semi-intriguing brainteasers to whet the appetite. However, Saw V continues the trend of a weakening premise and a host of expendable characters that there is absolutely no connection with. Screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (responsible for the preceding film too) knowing this, make a half-hearted effort to make this film more of a thriller than just another “torture-porn” flick. Using said flashbacks, they attempt to further piece together the reasoning and how-to behind Jigsaw’s master plan with ofttimes confusing results (plus it’s a great way to keep the chief architect Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) in the film).
Adding to the disarray are some very underwhelming performances. The main players, Scott Patterson and Costas Mandylor cruise through the film as if they don’t believe a word they’re saying. The bit players (i.e., Meagan Good, et al) do their fair share of yelling, screaming and cockamamie self-preservation moral reasoning like every other Scream Queen and King in a horror movie — but who cares, like I said they’re expendable characters and we want nothing more than to see them die horribly. There is, however, a bit juice left, albeit very small, in the role of mastermind Jigsaw. Bell still embraces the role (even though he’s been dead since Saw III) and manages to overcome the shoddy writing laid out for him.
By now though, no matter how the pig is dressed, it is still a pig. The gimmick that glorified (and dare I say started) a genre is old and exposed, and without a new, fresh perspective to keep the audience reined in, only the true fanboys will care Saw V is in the cinema. The only frightening aspect to it all is the same writers have reportedly signed on to make the Saw series a hexology, with Saw VI due out Halloween 2009. The tagline of this installment was “You won’t believe how it ends.” Let’s hope this time next year we can just believe it all comes to an end — finally.