Director – David Hackl
Cast – Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Polston, Carlo Rota, Greg Byrk, Laura Gordon, Joris Jarsky, Mike Butters, Al Sapienza
Release Year – 2008
Reviewed by John of the Dead
For the first time in the Saw series, a mediocre installment was put forth. The first four films in this series were well written and well directed. This fifth installment however was sub-par on both writing and directing. Although I wont go as far as to say this film is a bad film, because it still managed to make a moral statement as well as destroy you with it’s trick ending, this was nothing great.
This film takes off where Saw IV left off. Detective Hoffman is the successor to Jigsaw, and Special Agent Strahm is out for vengeance against whoever the new “Jigsaw” is. Special Agent Strahm gets a little too close to uncovering Jigsaw’s plan, and is forced into a “game” he has no idea he is playing. Meanwhile, a group of five strangers wake up in an abandoned room and must go through a series of traps that slowly eliminate them one by one.
First time director David Hackl had some big shoes to fill after Darren Lynn Bousman did so well with the three previous installments. I am assuming the reason David Hackl was given this directing job was because he was the production manager for Darren Lynn Bousman’s contributions to this series, which were Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV. All three of them were successful, so everyone must have figured “Hell, why not?” By what I’m saying you would assume this film’s plunder lies in the hands of this director, but I cannot deliver him all of the blame. This film returns writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the writers behind Saw IV. Why on earth they did some of the things they did with this film is beyond me, but I’ll get to that in a bit. This film left me with a somewhat sour taste given we are in the wake of the debut of Saw VI. I really hope these writers learned from this film, because if the franchise continues in this direction you can expect this franchise to finally lose itself and go under, or take to the DTV market like The Grudge franchise(The Grudge 3 went DTV this year).
My problem with this film’s writing is the use of Jigsaw. Sure we get a fair amount of on screen time with him, but frankly, this film is NOT about Jigsaw. This film is about Hoffman, and I did not like that. The previous installments to this film all featured Jigsaw as the main antagonist in this film. Saw IV managed to portray him as the main antagonist with him “already dead”, so why couldn’t this film do the same? Although he is long gone, he should still be the focus of these films, because it is him who started this saga of moral-oriented horror. Of course he is dead and therefore cannot come up with any “new” traps, but for Jigsaw to take a backseat to Hoffman was a bad idea from the beginning. You will see in several scenes into Hoffman’s past that Jigsaw is involved, and has a good amount of dialogue, but he still was not the focus of even those scenes. Bring back Jigsaw you jerks!
I also did not enjoy David Hackl’s directing at all. His use of cheap edits and the sounds of screaming girls every time a MAN or woman was in a trap was annoying, and downright stupid. He did manage to pace this film well though. It wasn’t a superb job, but it was good enough to keep me at least interested in what was happening and not wandering it off looking for a wall to stare at.
Aside from the film’s problems with writing and direction, once again we were thrown a curve ball ending that no one could see coming. I really did enjoy this film’s climax, and found it to be fulfilling given this film’s other troubles. I also enjoyed the game the five strangers were forced to endure together. The end result of the game is an awesome one, and will definitely leave you thinking “damn, I would have never been able to survive that”. If there is anything ANY Saw writer has done right, it’s been coming up with unique and very cool traps/games. Bravo on that one.
Overall, this is a mediocre addition to the infamous Saw genre that up to this film had given us nothing but awesome horror. Only watch this if you are a fan of the series and would like to see what I am referring to. I would also recommend that you view at least Saw III and Saw IV before viewing this, or it will most likely not make any sense at all.