Deadly traps may remain the bread and butter of the Saw series, but the real trick has become keeping these fetid sequels moderately fresh. David Hackl, second-unit director on the last two Saw films, assumes full command of this newest chapter, which further shapes the legend of malevolent mastermind Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) into a convoluted narrative puzzle in which each interlocking piece is the grim, gruesome same. Saw V picks up where last year’s IV left off, which is in a baffling muddle, though the only particular to bear in mind is that the now-deceased Jigsaw has bequeathed his bloody business to detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who now attempts to continue giving sinners life-or-death choices via horrific mechanical devices while being pursued by Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson). Although one would think that the focus of Hackl’s tale would be the group of five (secretly associated) people forced to make their way through a series of boobytrapped rooms, it’s flashbacks that dominate the action, most of them establishing Hoffman’s introduction to Jigsaw and his role in aiding the fiend orchestrate the prior stories’ various schemes. There’s absolutely no juice left to the sight of ensnared deviants struggling with the choice of mutilation or death, nor to Hackl’s standard-issue rotting color palette and frenzied editing. But worse still is the fact that this particular film barely even bothers to break novel ground, both rehashing familiar do-or-die scenarios as well as literally retreading much of its predecessors’ ground from a slightly different (though no more interesting) perspective. The film’s go-nowhere plot, hackneyed visuals and crude performances are bottom-of-the-barrel, exhibiting all the intelligence and craftsmanship of a direct-to-video throwaway. Lionsgate may still be turning a profit on each successive episode of this clownish saga, but as with so many other lucrative horror franchises, Saw’s sequelitis is a creatively fatal condition.
- David Hackl
- Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
- Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Rolston, Carlo Rota
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