Unrated Director's Cut
Studio: Lionsgate Pictures
US Rating: Unrated.
Film Length: 96 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround Sound
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Review Date: January 20, 2008
The Film - out of
The horror genre of late has descended into a simmering pot of exploitation and torture fetishism, displaying agony, anguish and gruesome deaths for no other reason than to entice an increasingly less squeamish populous who seem starved of a shock factor. While there have been real bright spots and even some genuine commercial success in recent years, most horror films that have grossed enough money to have sequels greenlit weren’t worth the film stock they were shot on. A veritable mixed bag of product has hit the big screen over the last decade. For every success like The Blair Witch Project, 28 Days Later and the superb The Descent, there has been an unimaginative, bland and worst of all, unscary chapter of nonsense clogging up the multiplexes.
When the originalSAW was released in 2004, it ushered in a wave of horror films that seemed to reduced the genre to disposable and grizzly exploitation pulp – however, SAW itself was far from dismissible, despite the onslaught of tasteless derivatives that it gave birth to. While it represented a paradigm shift from what horror movies did to scare us and freak us out, it was more-so a clever evolution within the horror movie genre; a film that places its victims inside clever and terrifying puzzles where the only thing that will save their life is taking some drastic measure of self mutilation, or worse. On one level it is torture, but by not backing away from the moral implications of each horrific decision; by choosing to examine right and righteousness, it became a far more complex idea than surface examination would indicate.
The basic plots of the SAW series involve its victims placed in a series of gruesome predicaments by an imposing moralist (facing death himself) who wishes to inflict punishment and a chance at retribution upon those that have wasted something precious in their lives or have committed sins which he believes ample punishment has not been felt. Each film begins with a person or persons in a grotesque contraption that will either end their life or let them free after some painful sacrifice. SAW V only barely attempts to add to that idea. Following on from the increasing dull sequels, it reveals details about previous plot points, playing around with timeliness as we follow Detective Hoffman, who is close to being found out about his relationship with Jigsaw and is seeking to keep his dark secret hidden by any means necessary. All that is just a clothesline upon which bloody and grim death sequences are strung up to dry.
Director David Hackl has the camera zipping, flashing and zooming in and around the terrifying circumstances the victims-to-be find themselves in and, during the quieter moments, runs the camera around loosely, without vision. The film lacks genuine atmosphere and a needed flair. The script is, as expected, nothing to write home about and performances worthy of those who are relegated to appearances in forgettable schlock horror flicks.
The original evil character of Jigsaw was so well conceived and conveyed that he has become as noted a horror film nemesis as Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. But like those evil foes, he appears now only in bad sequels. Some will find the appalling predicaments repugnant, and fans of the original will yearn for the nifty thriller that played beneath the fleshy carnage of that intriguing outing. Tobin Bell as the notorious Jigsaw killer still plays the character with a calm demeanor and his raspy, sinister voice. The reason and thought behind his madness and his steady, ludicrously determined portrayal has waned and yet is still the sole element that gives this series any reason for us to look. But the longevity to the series he provides may well have run its course.
SAW may have ushered in a bevy of films that add up to nothing more than torture and body count, relying solely on shock to earn its horror stripes, but it has not been reduced buy it. If the horror movie genre had found more success in Zombie, monster and supernatural projects these past few years, the effect of SAW and its sequels may not have been as great. But we did not have the choice cuts that quality horror options would have given us, and instead only had forgettable and dull retreats such as Pulse, Undead, Diary of the Dead and The Messengers to hang our horror loving hats on.
SAW V represents the inevitable state of popular horror franchises – it has become merely a means to make money; a product. It is a hastily conjured amalgam of macabre mayhem and mind-numbing mystery threaded with a thin wire of the Jigsaw foe. Disjointed and largely devoid of coherent atmosphere or characters that matter, it isn’t really worth your time. This unrated director’s cut adds about 4 minutes to the theatrical version.
The grainy, gritty gray that pervades throughout is no doubt a style choice but it is coupled with some real issues. SAW V is presented with a ratio of 1.78:1, different than the noted theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for widescreen televisions. Some scenes are quite crisp, with fine detail, well defined lines and an interesting green/yellow palette used that, contrasted with the murky shadows and foggy blacks, is vivid. But there are other scenes that lack clarity, are overly soft and even fuzzy – compression artifacts that detract from the experience. In sum, the image is disappointing.
In keeping with the Saw DVD audio tradition, Lionsgate brings the fifth in the series home with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. It is rich with the sounds of contraptions echoing, clanging and clunking, the sound of sawing, cutting, smashing and exploding and the sound of dripping, splashing, spilling and spewing. All the sounds you expect from a SAW film. The center channel gets the screams and taped Jigsaw monologues and is free from any issues. Charlie Clouser’s ambient rich score, which moans and pulses, is mostly active in the front channels but provides good surround in the key moments. This isn’t as rumbling an audio as previous installments, but is pervasive through the speakers enough to impress.
Audio Commentary with Director David Hackl and First Assistant Director Steve Webb – Dutiful conversation between Director and 1st AD, mostly about the traps and tidbits here and there about actors and how scenes were paced and assembled.
Audio Commentary with Producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg and Executive Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine – The producers provide a more energetic commentary on the fifth film of the SAW series, pointing out continuity elements, behind the scenes references and other nuance facts and details about the production process.
The Pendulum Trap - (5:46) – A look at the gruesome opening trap, with shots of original storyboards and reveals of the mechanics and prosthetics involved. .
The Cube Trap - (5:11) – A look at the design and challenges of the suffocation/drowning cube trap and the minor prosthetic attachment required.
The Coffin Trap - (5:43) – The making of the coffin trap that concludes the elaborate victimizing episodes trap is revealed.
The Fatal Five - (11:53) – This featurette is an interesting look at the traps and tortures the imprisoned five must survive throughout the film, from the rigged pulley system that will result in their decapitation, the deadly high voltage bathtub and the blood thirsty table of blades.
Slicing the Cube: Editing the Cube Trap - (5:02) – Not a particularly deep look at putting the sequence of anxiety with a man drowning with a glass box on his head together.
Theatrical Trailer - (00:48)
Trailers from Lionsgate Films – Including Repo: The Genetic Operata, and Bangkok Dangerous.
The SAW films are serving a purpose for horror fans as they appear every year like clockwork now. Whether that purpose is an indulgence in cheap horror or the low benchmark against which the resurgence of the horror genre can be measured (when and if it comes again). The thrill and mystery that was merely smothered in gore during the first SAW is drowned and beaten now by the fifth installment. It is clear that the arc running through the sequels is being thought up as it goes along (not mapped with any real intelligence that might tie the films together with more meaning) and that the cleverness that could be found in the film that started it all has all but been abandoned; A shame. Perhaps we will have to wait for a reboot or a remake to give this series another chance at something truly new and worthy. But even that might be asking a bit much.