SAW V, directed by David Hackle, written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, 99 minutes, rated R.
The promotional tag line used for the last “Saw” movie, “Saw IV,” went something like this: “If it’s Halloween, it must be time for another one of those crap ‘Saw’ movies.”
OK, so maybe that isn’t completely accurate (the tag line actually was “If it’s Halloween, it must be ‘Saw’”), but my tag line is closer to the truth — then and now. And how. In the political world, we’ve all heard plenty about how you can’t put lipstick on a pig. And guess what? In the film world, this is the equivalent. Oink, oink! They should have called this knockoff “Slop V.”
Back for more boredom, bloodletting and gore is, in fact, “Saw V,” which not only belongs in the business end of “Woodchipper Massacre,” but also should be lifted up as one of the worst horror shows ever. And we’ve just endured the Bush administration, so you can imagine how bad it is.
The first film at least featured a shred of tension early on, but this beauty follows all of the banality that came after it. It offers zero suspense, a continuing run of stupidity and absurdity wrapped around some dumb morality tale, and enough murky twists to make you scratch your head bald. Just ask the guy sitting in front of me.
Working from Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan’s crayon-colored script, director David Hackle puts his audience’s necks on the chopping block and shows them no mercy for just under 100 minutes. He wastes no time in getting to the gore. As with all of the “Saw” movies, the gutting is the real star here, and it starts from the get-go.
Stretched out on a slab is a young man who must “learn his lesson” and “atone for his sins” because Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), who is dead but still an aggressive moral activist in this movie (don’t ask), has another chip on his shoulder and wants to make a point by taking a human life. What this means to the man in question, a murderer named Seth (Joris Jarsky), is that he willingly crushes his fingers into bloody stumps in an effort to stop a swinging pendulum from slicing him in half. Who wants to bet things don’t go Seth’s way? Can I see a show of hands? Anyone? I didn’t think so.
This middling mediocrity then collapses into a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, the lot of which are so dizzying, you might want to bring your favorite Mensa member to see if they can make sense of it. That is, of course, assuming they can meet the film’s real challenge by staying awake. If they do, they’ll see a movie that follows Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) as he comes to question Det. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who fans (or victims — you choose!) of the last movie will recall has taken over Jigsaw’s dirty work. A boring police procedural ensues.
Torture is a mainstay in this movie (you know, like sitting through it), which apparently is its appeal as the filmmakers continue to focus less on character and more on how many ways one can meet a grisly end. But what’s happening to the torture-porn genre — what’s ruining it, really — is that none of the presumably disgusting scenes create the desired effect of absolute revulsion.
After being exposed to so many similar movies for so long now, we are immune to it. At my packed screening, people were so silent throughout the movie, you’d swear they were watching some unpopular, grim foreign film, complete with subtitles, by some nameless, third-rate hack, and not a movie that rejoices in the hum-drum breaking of bones, the gushing of fake blood and all those ribbons of rubbery entrails.
On DVD and Blu-ray Disc
To prove that if it’s Halloween, it doesn’t have to be “Saw” (or any films of similar ilk), below are two titles new to the home-viewing market that indeed are recommended.
“Diary of the Dead” Blu-ray:
From George A. Romero, the movie follows Jason Creed (Joshua Close), who is shooting a low-budget horror movie with his girlfriend, Debra (Michelle Morgan), a handful of their classmates and their drunk professor (Scott Wentworth) when the dead suddenly appear and start to attack. It’s into their Winnebago the humans go, where they keep tabs via television and the Internet on how quickly the world’s inhabitants are falling prey to, well, the world’s inhabitants. Naturally, a virus is to be blamed, one that has brought about “the death of death.” The rest of the movie is just what you expect — Jason and his posse on the run, some of whom get devoured while others kill the undead with a well-paced bullet to the head. If you know Romero, you know how these movies go down, but what’s nice to see is that the director hasn’t lost his nimble touch with the unexpectedly funny throwaway line, of which there are several in “Diary.” Rated R. Grade: B
“The Strangers” DVD, Blu-ray:
It stumbles in its rushed ending, but what’s admirable about this horror movie is how it remains committed to delivering mounting tension throughout. Writer-director Bryan Bertono uses time-worn horror movie cliches to fuel the action and he uses them successfully, achieving a heightened sense of dread. The film follows James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler), an attractive couple at a remote location whose relationship is on the outs and then suddenly thrown into turmoil by a knock on the door. The knock comes at 4 a.m., it turns out to be a young woman whose face is in shadow, and she’s looking for somebody named Tamara. When James and Kristen inform her that nobody is there by that name, let’s just say that all hell breaks loose once the door is shut in her face. What unfolds is lean, tight and disturbing, a film that intentionally recalls the style of horror moviemaking in the 1970s, but which also will remind plenty of last year’s “Vacancy.” It’s all about atmosphere and stripping away the clutter to get down to business with low-budget chills. And it comes through. Rated R. Grade: B
WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of hundreds of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.
• • •
New to DVD
Renting a DVD? BDN film critic Christopher Smith can help. Below are his grades of recent releases. Those in bold print are new to stores this week.
Baby Mama — B
Definitely, Maybe — B+
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — A
Forbidden Kingdom — B-
Forgetting Sarah Marshall — B-
Get Smart: DVD, Blu-ray — C-
The Happening — B
The Incredible Hulk — B+
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — B-
Iron Man — A-
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl — B+
Leatherheads — B-
Never Back Down — D
The Other Boleyn Girl — B-
Penelope — B-
Persepolis — A-
Prom Night — D
The Ruins — C+
Sex and the City: B-
Shine a Light — A-
Son of Rambow — B
Speed Racer — D-
The Spiderwick Chronicles — C+