All film genres are prone to the inception of sequels but of the whole lot of them horror appears to be the king in this regard. A simple horror flick can catch on with the fans and the studios will respond with follow up flicks. There is a certain protocol to the nomenclature here. Initially you have the sequel which if the potential for profits continue will become a trilogy. Then, if there is still considered a modicum of life left to the story it will be elevated to the lofty heights of the franchise. ‘Friday the 13th’ is up to a dozen flicks; ‘Nightmare of Elm Street’ is restarting after eight movies. One of the newest horror franchises is the ‘Saw’ flicks. This series of movies has pushed the edge of good taste and engendered a new branch of horror movies, the torture film. They are currently up to number five with part of the casting of the sixth installment relegated to a reality television show. It doesn’t look like this batch of films will go way any time soon. Although the series suffers from the usual degradation of quality with each subsequent flick it doesn’t seem to matter. ‘Saw’ now enjoys a legion of fans that will ignore any negative review and go and watch the movie anyway. This is the case with the fifth flick under consideration here. The first film was shocking with its premise of a madman challenging his victims to discover a worth to their lives by placing them in situations where they are about to die a terrible, blood death. It doesn’t seem to matter that the plot lines get thinner and thinner over time. What draws people to these movies is to watch people get themselves killed in horrible ways. In many ways this is no longer in the classic horror genre. In the old days the masters of the art knew that the best way to truly scare the audience was in their minds. This psychological approach is becoming increasingly rare as special effects makeup makes technological advances. Now, films like this may pretend to have a psychological element but they are ultimately a visceral experience. This fifth installment is now on DVD and Blu-ray. Some will want them just for the sake of completeness but others will be drawn in by the promise of something even grosser than show in the theaters with this director’s cut. No matter what your inclination or reason Lion’s Gate has all the torture and bloodshed you can imagine with this home theater release.
The story was provided by the team of Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. They can into the franchise with the previous installment, ‘Saw IV’. They are also responsible for another growing horror series ‘Feast’. That one has two out with another in the works. It may seem like it doesn’t take a lot to pull together a story like this. While this may hold to at least some degree as far as a cohesive plot and character development goes there is a certain level of perverse ingenuity required for some of the now famous traps utilized in these flicks. They are basically Rube Goldberg like contraptions with the sole purpose of torturing a person to death. These devices are something that would make Tomás de Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition green with envy. One of the standing traditions of the series was broken here. In most cases the victim is given one way out of their impending, painful fate. Typically this entails making a choice to live even if it means doing something that would normally be repugnant and contrary to their nature. One of the devices does go real old school taking a page from a classic of horror literature; Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’. But without some of the traditional albeit corny lines used in the other films and the break from the moral dilemma themes this flick is beginning to depart from the formula that created the fan base. This is a touchy quagmire for a writer particularly in this genre. They are constantly under pressure to top the previous film with the all important gross out factor but they have to remain true to the precepts and rules of the universe they are working with. This team knows how to write for a torture franchise and do as well as possible under the circumstance. Still, the facts remain that the vast majority of the audience is not watching this film for plot development.
This is not only the first time directing a ‘Saw’ movie for David Hackl, it is his initial foray into to the world of directing a film. He has been involved in the production end of the previous two flicks of the series though. He starts out the movie with a grabber, the ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ bit which gives the audience some immediate gratification. He then faces the challenge of pacing the rest of the movie. He has to balance the modicum of expository scenes with the shots of the torture. There is the feeling of padding the film with clips and flashbacks to the previous four movies. This does dilute the action to some extent and gets a bit annoying after a very short while. All of the devices are imaginative in a perverse way. One gets points for degree of difficulty involves a box placed over the head of the victim that begins to fill with water. In order to survive he has to perform a self tracheotomy to keep breathing. One plot element that is easily dismissed in this genre is the death of the main villain, Jigsaw (Toby Bell). It is sort of like the Sith from the "Star Wars’ franchise. There are always two bad guys in these flicks; a master and an apprentice. This may seem hackney and it is but it does ensure some continuity for the movies that are sure to follow.
What passes for a story here concerns a few survivors of the previous carnage. A few manage to die thereby getting out of subsequent appearances in the future films The current apprentice is deviating from the rules set in place by the original Jigsaw. For him it was all about how a person should appreciate their lives and what they are willing to do to keep living. The focus is moving more towards killing for the sheer fun of it as seen by the man behind the scenes. At least that is what I could discern about what was going on. The acting is on par for this kind of flick which is to say not overly convincing.
Lion’s Gate has four ways to get this film; regular DVD widescreen, full screen DVD, collector’s edition DVD and Blu-ray. The collector’s edition has extras that detail the production and highlights the traps used for the die hard fan.