MONKEY REVIEW: Saw V

October 26, 2008

Usually by the time a horror franchise has reached its fifth entry, it’s taking place in space, but Saw V takes place in the same grungy warehouse it seems to have been taking place in since the first movie. The original film was a effective thriller that worked up the kind of suspense that most modern so-called thrillers almost completely lack. I thought the second film was more of a retread, but the third one was surprisingly good, so I went to the midnight showing of last year’s Saw IV, which was ruined by inept execution (no pun intended). So now there’s Saw V, and…it’s not bad. It’s less gory than previous entries, and it seems to have been made with fanboys in mind, so there’s a lot of backstory, so much so that this almost qualifies as Saw: The Beginning. I suppose the other way to look at the latter quality is that the filmmakers are working diligently to fill in the numerous plot holes contained in the previous Saw movies, while finding ways to keep Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the serial killer who designs elaborate traps to “rehabilitate” other evil-doers and who in fact died in Saw III, involved somehow. Bell created a memorable horror character in the first few films, but he now appears exclusively in flashbacks, serving mostly to fill in the aforementioned plot holes while passing the baton on to a police detective, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), whom Jigsaw has been grooming to continue his work. Mandylor, who can otherwise be engaging and charismatic, hasn’t been given much to work with so far in the series, so Hoffman isn’t nearly as interesting as Jigsaw. Mostly Hoffman and Jigsaw exchange a copious amount of dramatically whispered dialogue. The filmmakers need a more compelling character to carry on the series (yes, Virginia, there will be a Saw VI), or else the Saw movies will be dead in the water, even for diehard fans, enough of whom showed up this weekend to make it $30 million. It was not the number one movie, however, as another horror movie, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, beat it out this time. Also worth mentioning: Julie Benz, one of my favorite character actors of late and one of the reasons I paid to see Saw V, stars as Brit, one of Jigsaw’s victims, and she elevates the movie every time she appears.

MONKEY RATING: THREE MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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