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Saw V (2008)


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Starring: Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Julie Benz
Director: David Hackl
Screenwriter: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Rating : R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.

“Saw” has become some kind of institution. Every year, on Halloween, everyone knows a new entry in the franchise is released, and there are certainly plenty of fans of cinematic carnage who provide a hefty financial boost for Lionsgate Studios and the two creators of this horror franchise, James Wan and Leigh Wannel, who never forget to place their names in the credits as executive producers.

There’s a certain point the franchise has reached, where I feel like the script writing process is more similar to the writing process of TV series’ scripts. How do we move the story along ? Who stays for the next episode ? Who dies ? What cliffhanger ending sould we have for this episode ? For those who are familiar with the “Saw” universe, it is a well known fact that the story is very complicated with a twisty plot that spans five films so far and will probably go on for a few more. It’s so thick now in fact, that every new film in the series will probably require a “Previously on Saw” intro. Otherwise, it’s risky to start watching it, as the story goes back and forth inside its Jigsaw chronology quite a lot. In fact, they’ve gone so far in extending Jigsaw’s world and the franchises’s existence, that they’ve lost whatever good ideas they had going in, managed to remove the villain with a flimsy excuse for one, and occupy too much time with tying loose ends in previous “episodes”.The Jigsaw traps, a trademark of the series, once symbolic and meant to reflect the darkness of human nature and test the limits of survival have become increasingly elaborate pieces of art direction, built by a whole team of people, rather than just the two-three the writers want us, the naive audience, to believe.

It would be pointless to start giving a synopsis since it’s what basically holds the franchise together : not knowing what the next film is about. The marketing machine knows it and plays it so. I can say that this is the first entry after the last 3 that is not directed by the infamous Darren Lynn Bousman, but the new addition to the team, David Hackl, brings just as much to the franchise as Bousman did : absolutely nothing. The directorial vision is most likely being dictated by David A. Armstrong’s bleak and sleazy cinematography and Kevin Greutert’s schyzophrenic editing. Also, someone had the hilarious idea of casting Costas Mandylor as a villain. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. I mean, the man simply can’t act to save his life, and all of a sudden he becomes the evil center of a horror franchise. It’s an idea more sinister, actually, than the concept of Jigsaw himself. Tobin Bell had a good grip on his creepy character and the man can actually act, despite being cast through time in good films but mostly as an unimportant evil henchman or menacing guy at the street corner. His deep, grouchy voice has become a staple of the series. The man was legend. And now he turns it over to Costas Mandylor ?! Oh, the horror !

Good news however for the gore hounds : there’s plenty of it, though less shocking, slightly less explicit and very, very gratuitous. Gratuitous, because there’s no connection between the audience and what’s going on onscreen. It’s no longer about Jigsaw dealing a sort of twisted justice and people surviving his traps. The violence is a trademark here, but it’s nothing more than that anymore. It’s all heavily edited with a loud industrial soundtrack and plenty of screams added for fun, but it’s hollow and pointless. Jigsaw’s been reduced to basic serial killer fare, which it already was, really, but never so obvious.

All in all, “Saw 5” is an ugly, violent, overblown, stupid, badly acted, boring and pointless film. I suppose the sixth will be more of the same and something extra on top of it. I just hope that the makers of this behemoth of crap realise they need to stop, at least out of compassion for a brutalised audience.

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