Monday, October 27, 2008

Saw V Review

Saw 5

This weekend I did the unthinkable, I went to see Saw V in the movie theater. I read a lot of reviews when I got home and everyone that claimed to be a horror movie fan seemed to take a dump on this film.

I beg to differ.

The latest edition of Saw isn’t as bad as people say. Saw V doesn’t suck as bad as people think. The story revolves around two detectives. One detective from Saw IV (who now is Jigsaw) is shown setting up the guy that is chasing him, Agent Strahm. The movie is not too unlike Saw IV with someone urged NOT to chase the leads and they do, which ends up in mistaken identity and anonymity for our main villain. Meanwhile, there is a back story that retells how Jigsaw accomplished his previous kills and it all ties in together via flashbacks. On the other side of the coin, there are 5 people trapped in a room who must work together to survive, and they are urged to not follow their instincts. This has expected outcomes, and we’ll discuss this further later in the review. We get the same sort of blame shifting that we get in the fourth film, and well….it’s a Saw movie.

Here’s the trailer for Saw V:

I was really excited about seeing this film. I have been following the Saw franchise from day one. I was in College when the first film came out, and every year that there has been a Saw movie, I’ve been there to see it. My wife and I both have sat through these films each year as they come out, and it has been a joy for us. This movie didn’t have the impact of the first film, which I loved on a lot of different levels. The first film had such a twisted ending that sitting through a lot of gore was worth every minute of time invested. The subsequent sequels each had their own moments of zen, and this one is no different.

The best part of this film is not so much the outcome of the traps, or the story itself it’s the way it ends. This film has such an iconic final sequence, it is artful as the colors and light mix with blood and imagery, only to fade to black and have the credits begin. This piece of film making is great, and can only be thought of as great because of the frenetic, train wreck of the filming process. The film utilizes a lot quick edits and camera motions to evoke emotional response to characters that you know nothing about nor care about. The characters involved in the elaborate traps are there for death, not really substance, and while the real drama is played out in the desperation of human emotion, the bigger picture isn’t really clear to me.

I will fault this film with having one of my deadly sins of film making. It has a flashback within a flashback, which I find as atrocious as having a musical montage in a comedy. I can’t stand flashbacks, but will put up with them if necessary, but this film has several flashbacks and several story elements pushed on you in the form of a flashback within an already going flashback story! This just doesn’t fly with me well, and I thought it was a lazy way to tell the story.

Tobin Bell is still great, even if he is in flashback form. I think he could replace the movie trailer guy, with his voice.

The execution of this film is iffy, I admit, it’s not the most solid of the series, however I liked it a lot better than then I did Saw III and thought it matched up well to Saw II and Saw IV. This one does not beat the first one though, as I felt that movie wasn’t well made at all. However, it had enough of that “saw” juice to get me to enjoy it. That final sequence especially, I thought that was well played.

There was not a lot of gore in this film. We did not see any autopsies, or massive head trauma. We did not see a lot of the traditional gore pieces that we are accustomed to in the previous installments of Saw. I’m not sure why, but this film was actually tame in regards to the gore and blood levels. There were death scene’s and there was a horrific arm being sawed in half, but overall, the gore and blood was turned way down. Not even the compound fracture of an arm towards the end of the film could or would warrant this film’s “saw” related angle.

Why Saw V is scary: The scariest parts of this film is not so much the traps, or the serial killer plot points, it’s the fact that the FBI (who is now involved in the investigation) is so stupid. They let people just steal files, they let rogue agents continue serial copy cat killings, and they seem to believe that since jigsaw is dead, the murders and missing people involved in the new deaths are unrelated somehow.

What scares me about this is the portrayal of the FBI. Sure the FBI looks dumb in a lot of movies (The Jackie Chan Collection, The Silence of the Lambs, JFK, Big Momma’s House, Out of Sight, Corky Romano, Casino, Miss Congeniality, Point Break), but these guys just seem so out of it that it’s embarrassing. Maybe that’s a good thing, so that criminals underestimate the prowess of one of the biggest gangs….er…I mean law enforcement groups in the world. The other scary part about this film hinges on my faith in God. The Bible talks about how the heart is wicked in all ways, and that selfishness rides high on the reasoning for decision making. This film illustrates that point so well that it hurts. The characters involved are seeking their own selfish desires. Whether it’s fame, notoriety, or simply survival, and the film goes across the emotional landscape showing that at our most primal we are not righteous at all. I even considered what I would do in the situations, and it’s true, I would probably attack someone in order to save myself if the time came to decide in a trap, with only moments to decide what to do next. I am a bad person, I admit it, and that’s why I personally need a savior. But that’s not the point. The point is that this movie is scary because it shows us in an explicit and outlandish life or death situation how terrible the human soul could get. Whether it’s the act of killing someone, or not stopping them from killing someone else, or it is the callous and lack of emotion that is tied into the outcome that really serves as a catalyst for why this movie is a horror film at it’s deepest core, is arguable. This movie is scary, and relevant if you ask the right questions.

It is interesting to note that James Wan, writer and director of Saw and Dead Silence is still a producer on this film, so his initial vision still lives with the fifth installment. That’s a pretty great thing for horror, because if you consider film in general not a lot of series make it to five films and still remain somewhat successful. I mean if you consider A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, Silent Night Deadly Night, Halloween, Howling, Hellraiser, and Rocky, each film got progressively worse as time went on. Saw V reaching this milestone is not as bad as people are saying, considering there are not a lot of horror movie franchises being created today that reach this milestone, and people don’t seem to credit Saw with that at all. The majority of people just throw the movie out without warranting any questions or relevance.

That’s what separates true horror movie fans, and those that are to might to recognize that horror isn’t always a perfectly pieced jigsaw puzzle of emotional and horror elements with good acting…that’s reserved for more “important” movies like “There Will Be Blood”. Saw V was good enough for me, and if you’re a fan of the movies you’ll enjoy it on a serial level, but not more than that.

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A writer first, cat lover second, and some other stuff too. Human, with lots of faults, and terrible communication.
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