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Saw V

November 7, 2008
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“You won’t believe how it ends,” taunts the tagline to pointless exploitation flick Saw V. Think about that for a second. They don’t mean that, do they? What they want to say is “you won’t guess how it ends,” surely? It ends – incidentally, read the synopsis on IMdB, which explains the entire plot in detail (so I don’t have to), and even gives away the laughable ‘twist’ – and the titles go up. What’s not to believe?

That this lame nonsense won’t be the much hoped-for final instalment? That the furious back-peddling revisionism on display here (dropping people into flashbacks who weren’t there in earlier movies) is expected to give the franchise new life? That the Jigsaw baton has been passed on for a new series?

Give me strength.

So, here’s a bit of revisionism of my own.

I watched Saw on telly some time ago and then, on a slow night, the second one. Saw II it was called. At some point I managed to catch up with either Saw III or Saw IV (I actually don’t know which, and I’m not sure it matters) and then this morning suddenly realised that, fuck, I’ve seen three out of four…so…why not achieve a measure of closure and catch the last one on the big screen. I don’t know what that voice was that said that, but if I can isolate it, I’ll eradicate the little bugger. Why? Why do this to myself? Well, if you don’t vote you can’t bitch, as they say, so at least I have the authority to speak out.

And you know what? If there’s one thing even more satisfying than being pleasantly surprised, surely it’s having your prejudices confirmed. Not a particularly edifying process, I’ll admit, but then I’m not trying to prove to myself that I don’t like black and white movies or Korean thrillers, or foreign arthouse. I’m just wanting to see a franchise I haven’t enjoyed and actively considered a force for bad, crash and burn. I want it to. And it does.

The irritating thing about Saw was that it had Cary Elwes in it, and anything with cast from The Princess Bride in I’d like to see succeed. But, it sucked. It sucked because it stuck its head above the parapet and shouted ‘look at me, I’m different’. No, not different; crap. A little bit stagey, a little bit wordy, Saw tried to present us with morally conflicted people so that we might a) share in their discomfort, b) connect with them and c) understand that, hey, some people deserve to die. Probably.

Then it had a twist. The twist was that the killer wasn’t who you thought it was, but some bloke you’d not met until the reveal. This is good, why? No, I can’t think of a reason either. Saw fails, fundamentally, because all you see in the whole thing is ‘mask’. The reveal – surely the selling point – fails on the back of this because you’ve not been given the option at any time to weigh up, be deceived by, dismiss. This is manipulation not at the expense of plot or street smarts, but at the expense of connectivity, and if you don’t have connectivity, why fucking bother?

Oh, and it had lots of gore, and ridiculous over the top camera trickery, a pounding blast of heavy metal at the moments of maximum horror, and then some self-righteous guff from the killer about how the choices we make will come to judge us.

Jigsaw’s voice is truly one of the most irritating faux threatening presences in all of cinema. A mixture of some voice simulation kidnapping dark thing, Orson Welles, and the man who takes the piss out of the man from the movie trailers. Not only is it irritating in and of itself, but the things he says make you want to punch him for being so smug (“Up until now, you’ve simply sat in the shadows watching others live out their lives. But what do voyeurs see when they look into the mirror? Now I see you as a strange mix of someone angry, yet apathetic. But mostly just pathetic. So are you going to watch yourself die here today, Adam”). Fuck. Off.

Anyway, countless people have died ‘making moral decisions’ and essentially messing up, victims of the evil genius’s bizarre traps and torture devices. Here, for instance, the opening scene is of a murderer (let out into society on one of those pesky technicalities that US law seems so fond of), tied to a pendulum rack. He must either crush his hands in tow vices connected to the thingummy wotsit oojah that stops the pendulum, or, let the pendulum cut him in half. Lovely. Anyway, he dies. They all die. Obviously. But then, they’re flawed, so it’s probably OK.

The important thing in all this is that Darla from Angel survives…no, no, sorry, that’s just an aside. The important thing is that at no point do you feel any sense of threat or danger with these set ups. You know what’s going to happen, you don’t give a gnat’s chuff about anyone being sliced, because they’re all self-important lowlifes, and you can’t even feel even a little weirded out, because there’s no atmosphere or eeriness involved at all. All – well, the four I’ve seen, the missing episode may well be an autuered masterpiece of Hitchcockian brilliance – all are directed with that flat, uninvolving deadpan gaze of despondent masturbatory fetishisation that you get in bad porn.

Surely the end has come for the torture horror genre? This is completely awful, but at least it (read that synopsis, kids) seems to have tied things up at last. Let that be an end to it. Dear God, let that be an end.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jolly Roger permalink
    November 7, 2008 8:49 pm


    I hope the end has come for these recycled torture movies, the first couple were shocking and horrific, just what they were meant to be, but now they are getting old. The popularity of slashers and psychos has been completely devoted to these films, and it sucks.

    Saw 1 was good, that’s enough for me. I got through #2, but stopped when I realized there was nowhere to go with this story. At least nowhere interesting.

    Forget Jigsaw, give me an evil genius like Hannibal or Henry any day of the week…

  2. November 10, 2008 4:41 pm

    Cheers for popping by, Rog, and thanks for the link to your site…some corking stuff on there. Will be delving about among the muck and gore for certain.

  3. April 15, 2009 12:56 pm

    I read your posts for quite a long time and should tell that your articles are always valuable to readers.

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