After Saw IV, it seems like the Saw series just seems to be going down this path of every instalment being subsequently worse. However, for some odd reason I’m interested to actually watch all of them, even if most of them aren’t exactly good. I was hoping that Saw V would improve from the last instalment, especially with how messy that one was. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, in fact I’d actually say it’s a bit worse. Not the step down that III was from II or IV was from III, but I’m less favourable towards V, even if I enjoy parts of it.
Saw IV was quite complicated with its storylines. This time it’s a little less complicated with Saw V, consisting with a new game with the new victims, Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as the new Jigsaw, and FBI Agent Strahm’s (Scott Patterson) investigation into Hoffman. With that said, the plot is also rather forgettable and dull, the most forgettable of the movies so far. Something that you’ll be able to tell early on is that this movie is first and foremost dedicated to lore, the plot is secondary, and there’s a lot of focus on backstory with a lot of exposition. John Kramer/Jigsaw does make some appearances in flashbacks given that he’s dead, but unlike Saw IV there isn’t a whole storyline dedicated to him alone. On one hand, the idea of less Jigsaw in this movie wasn’t exactly exciting, as Tobin Bell (actor for Jigsaw) and Charlie Clouser’s scores are really the only consistently good things across all of these movies. At this point though, the series has to try something else and not be held back by him, so I do respect it trying to move on, while giving a bit of Jigsaw. Of the main storylines, I’ll start with the one focusing on the group of people stuck in the traps, probably because there’s not much to really say about that one. The theme of the traps involves people having to work together to survive, I do like that idea and it’s quite an interesting one for this series to have. There’s also social commentary on real estate people, and there’s decent enough conflict with the victims fighting for survival, including fighting themselves. Unfortunately, the execution is quite weak compared to Jigsaw’s other games, from the mediocre and unlikable characters, to how its not even the main focus of the movie. By the end of the movie, the trap plot becomes something of a subplot. As I said, Saw V is more about the lore and backstory than the plot, and the former is more what the other two storylines are about.
The cliffhanger of Saw IV revealed Hoffman as the secret Jigsaw apprentice teased throughout that movie. Now that John Kramer is dead, this leaves Hoffman as his successor, and his storyline is about that. A large portion of the scenes consist flashbacks, where it goes back to times of the past Saw movies and shows how Hoffman was involved in some past iconic moments and traps. Saw III showed Amanda and how she was involved with some of the events of the past Saw movies, but at least those were shown in a few scenes or brief montages. With Hoffman in Saw V however, there are extensive scenes showing them. These are the only moments where it can get convoluted, when it goes back to the past Saw movies and especially with the interconnectivity. Some of it can get tedious, but I did like the connections. The third storyline is that of Strahm from the last movie, as he’s investigating Hoffman as he suspects him as being an accomplice to Jigsaw. There is a problem however that takes away from what could’ve been an interesting storyline, we already know the truth of Hoffman’s link to Jigsaw. Now Strahm isn’t dumb, he is smart for figuring out everything all by himself. However you do wonder what the point of it is when we mostly know everything already, and it’s not really gripping. It’s also particularly dull, Strahm looks at pieces of information and speaks exposition out loud for the audience. Ultimately you realise at a certain point that the Strahm storyline with him figuring out Hoffman is just to serve the latter’s backstory, as we learn about him. I think ultimately how well this movie works for you depends on how interested you are in Hoffman as a character. As it was, I found him okay, but he really doesn’t do enough in this movie to make me particularly engaged in him or interested with the idea of him being the new Jigsaw. There are plenty of twists as to be expected, but they aren’t great or unexpected like a lot of the other movies. The ending has one of those big Saw endings with the music and the reveals, it’s enjoyable as always but is a bit goofy and doesn’t hit as hard as much as the first three. Saw V is about 90 minutes long and while it wasn’t tough to get through, it was a bit of a slog, especially in contrast with the other movies, even the fourth.
The acting from the main cast is good, the rest is a mixed bag. I guess one could call the main character Peter Strahm, played by Scott Patterson. On one hand there’s parts of the character I like. He is one of the smarter main characters of the Saw series, in one of his earliest scenes he escapes a trap that was meant to kill him. Not only that, but he manages to figure out Hoffman and Jigsaw all by himself. With that said, him being smart does make some of his later dumb decisions frustrating. Additionally, Strahm doesn’t do much beyond move from place to place to deliver exposition, we don’t actually get to learn much about him, and he’s not developed as a character. Costas Mandylor plays Mark Hoffman, the secret apprentice to Jigsaw. He does appear broody and menacing and I guess he plays his part. Again though, Hoffman hasn’t done much to make himself interesting enough as a character. As I said earlier, Tobin Bell still gets to play some role here in flashbacks as Jigsaw, mainly to do with Hoffman. As usual he’s great and his screen presence is strong as always, even in the numerous scenes where they are just showing behind the scenes of past traps, Bell still does very well in his part. There’s an extensive scene where these two major characters meet for the first time, and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. The characters outside of those three are typical horror movie characters, they weren’t interesting, they are hard to like, and their acting aren’t good. It’s worse when none of them are really a main character in this story. Even with Saw II, the game had at least the son of the main character and Amanda. None of the characters in the traps of Saw V has an impact on the rest of the overall plot, it didn’t feel like it mattered if they lived or died.
After three Saw sequels with Darren Lynn Bousman, there’s a new director for this 5th instalment. This new director is David Hackl, who served as on production design in the Saw sequels. It was an opportunity to add a fresh directing voice to the Saw series. The direction is solid enough, but isn’t special or anything. Oddly enough, a great aspect in the movie is the editing. Gone are the quick firing and flashy cuts from the Darren movies, it’s a lot more refined and clean. At the same time, its got the right amount of intensity. As to be expected from Saw movies, there are traps and gore. Unfortunately the traps aren’t that special. The opening pendulum, the water cube, and the ending trap are the only memorable ones really, even the traps from Saw IV generally stood out to me more. One of the most surprising parts of Saw V is that for the most part there are less actual gore, especially compared to III and IV. It doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse, just an interesting thing to see. Charlie Clouser’s score as usual fits perfectly with the movies, especially with the tense moments and reveals.
Saw V is yet another mixed bag of a movie from this series. Now I still do like this movie, in the same way I liked IV despite everything about it. I only think it’s slightly worse than IV because it actually feels dull in parts and less memorable, it’s the least memorable of the 5 movies so far. This is probably the first point in the series where we have a Saw movie that really didn’t need to exist. Just watch Saw V if you watched IV and were still willing to watch more. I do feel like that’s the general feeling for the whole series, if you haven’t been alienated or given up by this point, watch the next movie. There’s 3 movies left in the series to get through, and at the moment the only one of them I’m at least hopefully for is VI.