See Saw with Alex, Day 5: Saw V

The series takes another dip.

by | October 21, 2009 | Comments

Day Five: Saw V

There was no sense of accomplishment after watching Saw V, that little
satisfaction of having finished a movie that follows you for the rest of the
day. Right now, it just feels like I sat down in my room and stared at a wall
for two hours.

It’s like I’ve woken up in one of Jigsaw’s traps, completely unable to piece
together what happened just a few hours ago. Did anything even remotely
significant or compelling happen in this movie? Everything that’s thrown at the
audience I kind of just met with a shrug and I don’t think it’s necessarily me
burning out on the series. I mean, what exactly is supposed to be interesting
about Hoffman’s origin story? He’s blackmailed by Jigsaw, but nothing in Costas
Mandylor’s performance suggests pleasure or torment or ambivalence in his
actions. He looks like a guy just going through the motions. I assume the
filmmakers cast the physically imposing Mandylor to be a visual foil to Tobin
Bell’s snooping, wiry look, but considering this is a series where characters
rarely ever come to blows, Mandylor’s stature is just mostly wasted.[rtimage]MapID=1191699&MapTypeID=2&photo=15&legacy=1[/rtimage]I wrote yesterday that Special Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) was a much-needed
injection to the series so it was quite shocking how quickly Saw V removes
everything that was appealing about him. Strahm picks up a Jigsaw tape that
advises him to stay put in a room. He then promptly ignores this warning. Why?
Nothing about him suggests he’d do something so flagrantly stupid. Then he
performs a self-tracheotomy and talks with a ridiculous rasp for the rest of the
movie that rivals Christian Bale’s Batman voice in distraction factor. Strahm’s
death by crushing at the end is, in effect, leeched of all emotion.
Screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton clearly lost interest in the
character and so did I.

I was optimistic about the movie’s central trap segment: a group of people
working together in an undisclosed location, similar to Saw II‘s setup.
However, nobody on the outside was even aware they existed so there was no
urgency at all in that storyline. And since the characters devise that a person
has to be scarified in each room, everything quickly, violently devolves into

So, in the end, virtually all good guys are dead and Hoffman is primed to go on
his way. I’m curious to see how the filmmakers will escape the corner they’ve
painted themselves into, but I’m not holding out hope that it’ll be particularly
compelling.[rtimage]MapID=1191699&MapTypeID=2&photo=11&legacy=1[/rtimage]As an aside, I’ve been thinking about how some diehard Saw fans wonder when
we’ll definitely find out what happens to Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, who saws
off his foot and crawls away in the first movie). I assume he’s dead, but people
still talk about him. I hope we never find out. The series burdens itself with
exposition and backstory that very little in the way of actual mystery remains.
One of the most haunting images is also among the simplest: Gordon’s brown,
wizened foot still resting in its shackle (which I believe is from Saw II),
a symbol of simplified horror.[rtimage]MapID=1191699&MapTypeID=2&photo=12&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Body count:

Most inventive trap: The water box trap that Strahm finds himself in
is decent, but the way he gets out of it (pen to the throat) is the movie’s
probably singular clever touch.

Stupid person in a horror movie moment: Definitely Strahm blowing off
Jigsaw’s warnings. How’d you get this job with that attitude?

See Saw schedule:

  • Day 1 (10/15):

    Saw (2004)

  • Day 2 (10/16):
    Saw II
  • Day 3 (10/19):
    Saw III
  • Day 4 (10/20):
    Saw IV
  • Day 5 (10/21): Saw V (2008)
  • Day 6 (10/23): Saw VI (2009)