If you haven’t read the write-up on Saw 4, I highly suggest that you go back and read it before reading this article. There are significant spoilers for that movie in this article, not to mention that almost no time passes between that movie’s end and Saw 5. It’s totally the right choice. It makes the story work impeccably. But you better go back and spoil yo’self before moving on.
The gist: The mega-trap that was constructed in Saw 4 was busted open, but the investigating Special Agent Strahm was still in the building when it all went down. He discovers a message from Jigsaw, urging him to leave and not investigate further. He ignores it, because it’s Jigsaw. But soon he finds himself in a trap—without any challenge attached. This trap is simply meant to kill him.
Strahm survives, and goes on to investigate why he was set up in a trap that would not give him a fighting chance to survive. This isn’t like Jigsaw (who’s still dead!). In fact, the copycat traps are all like this. Someone’s using Jigsaw’s modus operandi to kill people outright, as opposed to “teaching” them to value life through dangerous ways. They’re too rough. Too vindictive. As a new set of games begin (for people who are ultimately inconsequential), Strahm finds the second apprentice of Jigsaw: Detective Hoffman, the “hero” who rescued a little girl from the mega-trap.
What I “learned”: The genius of the Saw movie is that it punctuates extremely grisly blood and guts with the most sober character action you may ever encounter in horror. It doesn’t rely on blood and guts at its core. It doesn’t need it to be good. Which leads me to say something huge here: Saw is not torture porn. In fact, torture porn is barely a genre anymore. That time is largely over.
The whole point of Jigsaw’s actions is that he wants people to learn. Ideally, they would escape and live life with a new appreciation. Hoffman is more monstrous than Jigsaw ever was, because he’s a full-blown killer who doesn’t care whether people live or die. Compare that to the blood-soaked movies that came before it. On a purely technical level, the camera in a Saw film doesn’t always lustily linger on the blood and guts. Some more than others, sure. But the overarching plot is so much better than it has any right to be. Some movies are pure torture porn, but even then they border on exploitation film. The true movies that can be called torture porn are nothing like this series. Frankly, I don’t think you can hold the record at one time for being the most successful horror franchise in history if you’re pure torture porn. That time in history has passed. You have to be more.
See this movie if you like: Horror movies with multiple plots. This is probably the best Saw movie since the first one because it juggles so many plots but still feels relatively seamless. It also plays well to the balance between the high-stress game scenes to the low-stress police procedurals. It’s great stuff.
Avoid this movie if: You’re the type to scream at the television screen when characters are being stupid. It’s so obvious that Hoffman is the apprentice once you know it. The clues are everywhere, because Hoffman’s a lumbering ape. Jigsaw had to blackmail him to make him an apprentice, that should tell you something about his quality.
New Films Watched: 60
Films Re-Watched: 2
Total Number of Films: 62
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