By: Wes Lawson
Starring: Tobin Bell, Julie Benz, Costas Mandylor, Meagan Good
Directed by David Hackl
Run time: 88 minutes
1.5 out of 5 stars
(Note: This review discusses key plot points from the previous “Saw” films, since it’s difficult to review the fifth without mentioning some of them. It’s doubtful that anyone reading this review won’t have seen them, but in any case, I issue a SPOILER WARNING at the outset. )
Another Halloween, another “Saw” movie. Another series of traps, another ludicrously complicated plot, another patching up of the various plot holes from previous installments, and another twist ending.
But speaking as a die-hard “Saw” fan, I must say that this is the first in the series where I was completely bored and uninterested. After five movies, this franchise is out of gas and out of ideas and it needs to be put out of its misery.
The fourth film hinted that Agent Hoffman (Mandylor), who was in charge of the Jigsaw investigation, has now taken Jigsaw’s place after his death. Officer Strahm, another character who apparently we were supposed to know from the previous films, is hot on his trail. Meanwhile, Hoffman has set up another game for five more people, in which they run the risk of getting decapitated, blown up, electrocuted or bled to death.
Really, the plot is of little importance, since there isn’t much of it to speak of.
If “Saw” had stopped at number 3, with the death of Tobin Bell as the original Jigsaw, then the series might have remained an effective little horror trilogy. By continuing on without him, the filmmakers have shot themselves in the foot, having to rely on copious flashbacks to fill in the blanks of the previous films and keep Jigsaw around to keep things interesting. Hoffman is not an interesting character, and about forty percent of the film is flashbacks showing how he became Jigsaw’s right hand man. Apparently Jigsaw was the smartest man who ever lived and could juggle two henchmen without them ever running into each other and plan the most elaborate traps and plots fifty steps ahead of everyone trying to get him.
Worse is the subplot involving the game played by the five connected people, who share a bond over something stupid. Their story is completely pointless and it only serves to alleviate the tedium of the flashback sequences. The traps, which are the only reason to see these films anymore, are getting to be kind of boring, and the twist ending is so nonsensical and unearned that it reminds us of how effective the twists in the previous films were.
Director David Hackl has learned from director Darren Lynn Bousman and pretty much has the same directorial techniques and grungy interiors as the previous films. But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t overcome the deficiencies of the screenplay, which humanize Jigsaw to the point where we don’t care anymore, and provides us a new killer who is about as interesting as a piece of paper.
I’m done with “Saw.” I was willing to give it another chance after the disastrous fourth installment, but there’s only so much I can take. Jigsaw needs to go on break for a few years and get some new writers and directors if he ever wants people to be interested in his story again. But as of right now, the makers of “Saw 5” should call it quits.