See Saw with Alex, Day 5: Saw V

The series takes another dip.



Day Five: Saw V

There was no sense of accomplishment after watching Saw V, that little satisfaction of having finished a movie that follows you for the rest of the day. Right now, it just feels like I sat down in my room and stared at a wall for two hours.

It's like I've woken up in one of Jigsaw's traps, completely unable to piece together what happened just a few hours ago. Did anything even remotely significant or compelling happen in this movie? Everything that's thrown at the audience I kind of just met with a shrug and I don't think it's necessarily me burning out on the series. I mean, what exactly is supposed to be interesting about Hoffman's origin story? He's blackmailed by Jigsaw, but nothing in Costas Mandylor's performance suggests pleasure or torment or ambivalence in his actions. He looks like a guy just going through the motions. I assume the filmmakers cast the physically imposing Mandylor to be a visual foil to Tobin Bell's snooping, wiry look, but considering this is a series where characters rarely ever come to blows, Mandylor's stature is just mostly wasted.
I wrote yesterday that Special Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) was a much-needed injection to the series so it was quite shocking how quickly Saw V removes everything that was appealing about him. Strahm picks up a Jigsaw tape that advises him to stay put in a room. He then promptly ignores this warning. Why? Nothing about him suggests he'd do something so flagrantly stupid. Then he performs a self-tracheotomy and talks with a ridiculous rasp for the rest of the movie that rivals Christian Bale's Batman voice in distraction factor. Strahm's death by crushing at the end is, in effect, leeched of all emotion. Screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton clearly lost interest in the character and so did I.

I was optimistic about the movie's central trap segment: a group of people working together in an undisclosed location, similar to Saw II's setup. However, nobody on the outside was even aware they existed so there was no urgency at all in that storyline. And since the characters devise that a person has to be scarified in each room, everything quickly, violently devolves into routine.

So, in the end, virtually all good guys are dead and Hoffman is primed to go on his way. I'm curious to see how the filmmakers will escape the corner they've painted themselves into, but I'm not holding out hope that it'll be particularly compelling.
As an aside, I've been thinking about how some diehard Saw fans wonder when we'll definitely find out what happens to Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, who saws off his foot and crawls away in the first movie). I assume he's dead, but people still talk about him. I hope we never find out. The series burdens itself with exposition and backstory that very little in the way of actual mystery remains. One of the most haunting images is also among the simplest: Gordon's brown, wizened foot still resting in its shackle (which I believe is from Saw II), a symbol of simplified horror.
Body count: 7.

Most inventive trap: The water box trap that Strahm finds himself in is decent, but the way he gets out of it (pen to the throat) is the movie's probably singular clever touch.

Stupid person in a horror movie moment: Definitely Strahm blowing off Jigsaw's warnings. How'd you get this job with that attitude?

See Saw schedule:
  • Day 1 (10/15): Saw (2004)
  • Day 2 (10/16): Saw II (2005)
  • Day 3 (10/19): Saw III (2006)
  • Day 4 (10/20): Saw IV (2007)
  • Day 5 (10/21): Saw V (2008)
  • Day 6 (10/23): Saw VI (2009)

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