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Saw V (2008)

You won't believe how it ends.

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 92 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18


Having just been lectured by proxy about my love for horror films and their pesky violence (I watched Michael Haneke’s two versions of the “I’m better than you because I examine my movie watching motives” thriller Funny Games in a row), watching this unabashed, unashamed gore extravaganza was a relief. And I realized that what keeps me coming back for more Saw, no matter how far-out or impossible the premise, isn’t some unquenchable desire to see people lose limbs or spleens—it’s that they always deliver something new, even amidst the same old tricks.

Now that both John (Tobin Bell) and Amanda are dead, there’s a new Jigsaw in town—Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). He’s taken over the trap-setting terror of his predecessor and mentor, and he’s even so good at it that he’s orchestrated a whole scenario that makes him look like a hero. One man, however, suspects the truth, and though he’s been removed from the Jigsaw case, trap survivor Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) makes it his mission to expose Hoffman before it’s too late. Oh yeah, and, while all that’s going on, five strangers are being forced to learn about teamwork in a really nasty way.

This isn’t the best piece of the Jigsaw puzzle (He he! See what I did there?), and it’s actually somewhat confusing at times. Two different but related stories going on at once, plus the back story, and we also have to keep track of what the strangers working their way through the latest death house all have in common—as these movies go on, their plots become more complicated than one of those crazy traps. But, credit goes to new-to-the-series director David Hackl and writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan for staying true to its spirit. The Saws have always been kinda convoluted, strong on back story, and better with consistency than one might think—they also never seem to skimp on production value, and say what you will story-wise, the effects are always spectacular. My main complaint with this new Saw is that even with the spirit of John guiding things from beyond (not literally—he’s just a great planner), the latest Jigsaw lacks the creepy factor—Mandylor is about as bland as they come, and I miss Bell’s innate scariness and the obsessive lunatic fervor of Shawnee Smith. And honestly, once we learn what the five strangers have in common, it’s a letdown—though the twisted lessons in working together are a nice touch. Overall, you don’t really go into Saw V for nuanced characters or thought-provoking storylines—and though this addition to the series takes a few missteps, it’s got plenty of action and blood, inventive props, and it moves the story along. Can’t wait until VI!

It's Got: Some new blood on the other side of the camera, cool traps, a fun twist or two.

It Needs: A better new villain, a better story connecting the five strangers.

DVD Extras Audio Commentary (David Hackl, director and Steve Webb, asst. director); Audio Commentary (Mark Burg and Oren Koules, producers, and Peter Block and Jason Constantine, executive producers); Five Featurettes: “The Pendulum Trap,” “The Cube Trap,” The Coffin Trap,” “The Fatal Five,” and “Slicing the Cube: Editing the Cube Trap”; Trailer DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


Probably the weakest of the series so far, Saw V will still satisfy the series’ fans and shows promise with writers who should find their footing by the time VI rolls around.