*Disclaimer* If you haven’t seen the other Saw films the following review will spoil those films, there is no possible way to review this without doing so.
The series continues, right where IV left off, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) is placed into a trap, by the now revealed third apprentice to ‘Jigsaw’ Det. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Strahm survives the trap as Hoffman is celebrated as the hero, but Strahm has his suspicions and decides to conduct his own investigation. Little does he know Hoffman is on to those suspicions and plans to frame him as the third apprentice. Meanwhile, another game is being played with five participants, who all seem like strangers but there is a link which connects them all.
Unfortunately this is easily the weakest of the franchise, not that it is a bad film though, it just isn’t as good and it feels more like a set up film. It does continue in the same tradition as the other films, giving us pieces to put together, returning characters and nasty traps. While these ones didn’t feel as inspired as the previous films, the final one was pure genius. The first trap which turns out to be a flashbacks and shows us that Hoffman has a connection to the victim, is quite brutal and very gory. This is however all necessary for us to understand Hoffman, and provide us with more of a back story. We get to see how he met John Kramer, and just how far back his work with him goes. This all came as a surprise for me, and I liked that, it did made sense and it did not ruin how the other films played out. The writing for this was actually quite smart in places but it just felt a bit rushed and forced as well. A bit like with Saw IV, they seem to be struggling to find a way to keep this series going. As introduced to us previously Jill Tuck is back, to provide more insight as well as a few other little surprises. Then we have the big main trap for the film, five people with different tests to pass. I liked the idea behind this set up, and when all is said and done it actually was a neat idea. Of course we find out these people do have a connection, and it was an interesting experience as well.
The film had two good leads with Scott Patterson and Costas Mandylor, they both played off each other well and were good adversaries. While Hoffman was the more interesting character, thanks to the great performance but Patterson was still good. I think Hoffman’s story arc, especially with John Kramer is what really drove this film, the two had a great dynamic together. Tobin Bell, do I even need to mention how good he was yet again? Well yes, he was great and always delivers the goods. I can see why the writers and directors of the series continuously want to keep his character alive, when you have a talent like that it is too good to let go. Other key players here were Mark Rolston as Erickson, Strahm’s boss who slowly starts to suspect him for the Jigsaw crimes. He was good for his smaller role, her certainly looked the part. Betsy Palmer was great as Jill, she has been a nice addition to the series, certainly a good plot device. The players in the game Julie Benz, Greg Bryk and Carlo Rota were the main stand outs of the five, Julie Benz was especially good too. This was certainly a different role for her, she was all kinds of bad ass.
Over all Saw V is an average horror film, a decent addition to the series, but it has the grasping at straws feeling all the way through it. Desperation really rang true with the film, which is what ultimately let it down. However good acting, some nice looking sets, fantastic pacing, flashbacks and stories getting told lifted this up from being something that could have been really bad. I have heard people really hating on this, but perhaps my low expectations made me not mind this one so much. It at least flows off the previous film, and definitely sets up the 6th film nicely. It was a blow to the series to lose director Darren Lynn Bousman, and his replacement on this David Hackl had big shoes to fill. He did an alright job, but for sure this film could have been a lot better. It is something needed to bridge the gap between IV and VI, and certainly this is worth watching in preparation for VI.
Saw V was part of my Horror Films For October, you can find the entire list here.