Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good. Rated R.
Jigsaw has seen better days.
That’s saying a lot, considering
he was last spotted in Saw IV on a
mortuary slab, his rotting flesh a sickly shade of gray as a medical examiner
nonchalantly sliced open his stomach. First-time director David Hackl has
exhumed the macabre prankster’s corpse for Saw V, and rarely has the law of
diminishing returns seemed more
While the first three installments
of the franchise frequently strained the limits of even the most perverse
imagination, they maintained by a twisted but durable logic, and they delivered
on their promise of hair-raising chills. This time, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell),
presumed dead after suffering a power-saw to the throat in Saw III, returns in a series
of flashbacks designed to clarify the
logistics of his latest killing spree. Never before has a movie worked so hard
to justify its own existence.
The appeal of those earlier Saw movies
can largely be attributed to the ingenuity with
which Jigsaw disposed of his victims, for whom the choice between life and
death hinged on their tolerance for unspeakable pain and mind-bending puzzles.
Here, Jigsaw’s traps are treated as an afterthought, and the five moral
reprobates ensnared in them seem like concessions to an increasingly tired
formula. (Been there, Saw that.)
Judging from the nearly sold-out
theater at a recent midnight screening of Saw V, there are still plenty of devotees
who appreciate that
formula, even as the series delves deeper into mediocrity. (If you’re not a
devotee, don’t bother; this latest adventure hardly works as a standalone, if
it can be said to work at all.) And according to Darren Lynn Bousman, who
directed three previous sequels before wisely jumping ship, there may be no end
“There could be 19 Saw movies,
and there probably will be,” he told me after Saw
III. “The only way for this franchise to
survive is to retain a certain integrity, to stay smart and on top of the
horror genre. As long as I’m around, I plan to make sure that happens. So if I
ever read a script and say, ‘This is awful, this could never happen,’ the
producers will listen to me.”
Apparently, he never read Saw V.