The dullest blade

Saw franchise continues its legacy of dumbing down the season

BOX CUTTER<br>Putting round heads into square boxes, and other ways to dress up torture porn.

Putting round heads into square boxes, and other ways to dress up torture porn.

Saw V
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor and Scott Patterson. Directed by David Hackl. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

Too bad about Halloween. Used to be that the horror aficionado looked forward to October as the month when the studios unleashed a slew of scary movies to mark the occasion. But somewhere along the way, springtime became the de facto dumping ground for horror. I suppose it was the advent of DVD, and the releasing of the discs to take advantage of the season.

Which leaves the Saw series of torture porn as the only multiplex spookshow option leading into Halloween, here marking its fifth annual entry. With no competition, the franchise (no matter how inept the episode) is a guaranteed moneymaker. So five years from now will probably see Saw X.


Basically, the Saw series serves as a YouTube-generation haunted house; the viewer is thrust down darkened hallways with a shaky-cam for eyes, as strobing lights and loud, spooky noises assault the senses. In each room, a timeout from fundamental narrative is taken to allow the passive observer to observe murder set-pieces unfold in loving detail in company with the Nietzschean designer of the complicated grisly gizmos, who serves as dungeon master surrounded by a bank of video feeds and intoning dire life-or-death choices in a voice straight from the abyss. Of course, since everybody paid their money to see blood, as one of the earlier entries promised, there will be blood.

And since this is the fifth entry and most everybody who has been part of the series has been picked off along the way, there will also be flashbacks. Plenty of flashbacks, as the machine has been set to auto-cannibalism. Although to be fair, it’s about the only way the viewer can keep things straight at this point. But the flashbacks don’t help. As best I could tell:

Jigsaw has been dead for a couple of entries, living on via video snippets. He’s picking up surrogates along the way to continue his nefarious game of inducing self-destructive folks to get a taste of how precious life is by kidnapping them, rigging them to some absurdly Rube Goldberg mousetrap and forcing them to make some pain-of-death choice before things get very Grand Guignol on their asses. These folks rarely make the right choices, because that’s really not part of the implicit bargain between filmmaker and viewer, now is it?

This time around, a cop staggers out of the slaughterhouse to continue on as Jigsaw’s latest acolyte. A federal agent suspects what’s going on, and the cop knows that the fed suspects. As the cat ‘n’ mouse is played out between the two, the latest batch of strangers is locked down in a dank basement together to play the latest round.

And again, the clock begins to tick.

To be fair, it is what it is. If you want blood, Saw V has it. And at this point, the writers of the franchise are probably as confused about what’s going on in their little milieu as anybody else. There’s no real plot, but plenty of complications. As a linking device between bits of simulated torture, I suppose the film serves its function.

And yes, room is left for Saw VI.