In 2008, the Saw brand continued to expand with a fifth installment. After the series high of Saw III, the fourth film experienced a decline in spite of staying a very successful film in its own regard. Some people would argue the series had started to lose a lot of the shine it once had. It no longer had the novelty of the original film nor was the concept at the fever pitch it had been at with the third. Regardless, it can never be understated how crazy it was that Twisted Pictures and Lionsgate were able to accomplish the amount they did. In-fact, looking back, it feels downright surreal. The best comparison anyone could make would be to The Conjuring Universe, but it is a comparison that doesn’t carry a lot of weight. Every year for seven years, the Saw series received an installment and all of them did reasonably well at the box office. The Conjuring universe sees a new release nearly every year without fail, but they at least offer themselves spin-offs and detours, but the Saw series is head on.
Saw V was directed by David Hackl (in his feature directorial debut – he had previous involvement in the series as a second unit director and production designer) from a screenplay by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The film sees Tobin Bell once again, with Costas Mandylor at the reins as The Jigsaw Killer, so to speak, Detective Hoffman. Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Julie Benz, Carlo Rota, and Meagan Good all appear as well. The film received very negative reviews from critics, and saw the lowest box office reception since the original.
For both our benefit, let us reflect on what has happened thus far: (2) John Kramer unveiled former victim Amanda Young as a protege, but (3) got rid of her because she wasn’t abiding by his established set of rules. (4) It is then revealed that a second accomplice, Mark Hoffman has been involved since early on. Likewise to Saw IV, the story is a world with John Kramer, but the master plan he has set in motion continues to unfold before our eyes. Sometimes every now and again, it can feel justified and even clever, whereas other times it can feel cherry-picked and contrived.
In that respect, I almost think it would be interesting to see a documentary about the Saw film series and find out more information of how they were all made and connected. As it stands, most of it, I think, is retroactive, but every now and again, certain storytelling elements can feel genuinely detail oriented. I find myself engaged and curious about where that line is drawn.
Again, like Saw IV, our latest Jigsaw outing can feel transitional in many respects and even more inconsequential. Especially because, whereas with the fourth film, where it showed the changing of the guard and the reveal of Detective Hoffman as our series’ new antagonist, this film is all about ironing out the kinks and filling in all the blanks to make it official. In the mean time, we are left with a lot of busywork, a story arc involving FBI agent Peter Strahm, and a forgettable set of victims (which is unfortunate, given Julie Benz’s involvement as one of them).
None of it is especially egregious, I don’t think. Our story with Peter Strahm feels very one-dimensional and cliched, similar to Detective Mathews from Saw II, and it isn’t ever offered anything to elevate it beyond that. Peter becomes infuriated as he sees his coworkers swatted down and clearly suspects Hoffman, but it isn’t enough to make him a believable adversary, leaving us to anticipate the inevitable ball to drop on him.
Meanwhile, our victims are all congregated in small rooms, targeted for the wrongdoings of their past, and swatted down accordingly. It isn’t that the cast involved isn’t talented or capable enough, but, instead, they feel procedural. They feel like they have to be there because this is a Saw film and not because they have been given consideration beyond that. Whereas the other films tried to strike a balance between intermingling narratives, this film feels like it wishes it could (ahem) saw that other part of itself off.
Detective Hoffman was an interesting way to continue the series forward and, while it hasn’t been a smooth transition by any stretch, I find myself always thinking the character has legs to stand if they allowed it more time and consideration. Certain aspects of the film, particularly the end, make me think Hoffman could realistically serve as a replacement for John Kramer. Not as a John Kramer idealist, but as a brainwashed and cruel soldier of evil. Kramer was his cult leader and “in Kramer,” Hoffman could build the foundation for himself as a formidable antagonist in his own right. However, such an idea isn’t offered enough of a chance to be found.
If memory serves me right and I think it does (but we will find out), I remember Saw V as the worst film in the series altogether, no contest. I can say, without hesitance, that it is my least favorite film of the series thus far, and for one singular reason. The series has certain flaws and discrepancies that can be seen from start to finish, whether it be from my favorite film (Saw III) or the original film that started it all. Aside from all those criticisms though, I have always been entertained by it, whether it be win, lose, or draw. I watched this film and a day later I felt like I needed to watch it again in-order to do a review about it, that’s how forgettable it was. I have seen it at least three times now in my life and I can barely remember anything about it other than the end twist and the fact Rita from Dexter is in it. That’s it.
That’s Saw IV, and that’s why I consider it the worst film thus far.