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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saw V

So I called my friend Cee Cee with whom I’ve seen all the Saw movies since the very beginning and she said that she and her hubby Seymour were seeing Saw V at their local theater in Seabrook so I’d have to see Saw V on my own, which left me sad since she and I had been Saw fans ever since Cary Elwes sawed off his own foot back in 2004’s original Saw. How time flies when you’re having fun! Still, Saw V! I mean, really? How many times can they keep re-making this same movie before it gets old?

Actually, I got my answer to that very question just this week when I went to see
Saw V. I swear I’ve seen this Saw before. Four times before actually. Actor/writer and now producer Leigh Whannell, who created and co-starred in the original movie, must be sitting around his Sydney mansion, smirking like he won the bloody Lotto. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what he did do. He whipped up a frenzy of blood with his little torture flick four years ago, and now he can just hang back and continue to be amazed like the rest of us that anybody continues to think up plotlines to keep his franchise rolling. Unlike us, however, Whannell gets to keep cashing checks sent to him by the studio thanks to folks like Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the team who wrote Saw IV and tv’s “Project Greenlight” bloodbath, Feast, and the pair responsible for keeping the grind going (literally and figuratively) with Saw V. What is particularly extraordinary about this little trick is that in the last chapter, for those who haven’t been keeping up, both the mass-murdering Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell; Boogeyman 2) and his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith;
Secrets of an Undercover Wife) died. It’s generally hard to keep a series going when the main characters have photocopied their last buttocks, finished their last Sudokus, heeded God’s ultimate product recall… Well, you get the idea. I hope. They’ve got buzzards circling overhead. They’re dead, Dear Readers, d-e-a-d.

Still, even though the stars of the series are taking a dirt nap, that doesn’t mean the “games” that
are a trademark of the series must end. The Jigsaw’s whole raison d'être was to put those he felt deserved to die for their “sins” in a position to choose whether to play one of his incredibly complex and potentially fatal games or face certain death by refusing to participate. Inevitably, of course, they all play the hand dealt them, thinking there is a chance they will outplay their nefarious captor, though it never quite works out that way. And would fans have it any other way?

So Melton and Dunstan were faced with a big challenge this time around. How do you make another sequel with your main star in it when you killed him off in Saw IV? Obviously, the only choices are an identical twin (nah), a prequel, or a series of heretofore unseen flashbacks. The natural choice is
to go with the flashbacks, especially since the BIG SURPRISE of this silly follow-up is that Jigsaw had more than one protégé doing his dirty work for him since the original Saw. Yeah, I know. It’s a stretch. The reveal that Amanda was not a victim but Jigsaw’s go-to gal wasn’t shown until the end of Saw II, and so now, three movies after that, we are going to watch a rehash of the first four movies from a different point of view, with Tobin Bell and this apprentice setting up the equipment for the deadly encounters seen in each movie, but with nary a glimpse or mention of Amanda anywhere. Okay, I can buy the idea that Jiggy needed more than a wisp of a young lady doing all of his heavy lifting for him. After all, Jigsaw was dying of brain cancer and wasn’t really able to do much physically on his own except create sick amusements of torture and death. I just think it is really pushing our credulity to expect us to believe that a devoted protégé would be anywhere but next to his sweet Jigsaw when the poor guy was undergoing brain surgery in Saw IV. After all, he was in his warehouse lair being operated on by a bomb-laden surgeon who was being held captive and forced into using handyman’s tools instead of surgical instruments. Amanda was there, for Crikey sake. I guess we know who really loved their master. So are the Days of our Lives.

Now I’m not telling you who this new apprentice is because the joke, if you want to call it that, is in
the sleight-of-hand that leads the viewer down one path while leaving out a few more pieces of the puzzle necessary to ensure a Saw VI is on the horizon (and it is already in pre-production). Costas Mandylor (Toxic), who made it through Saw III, IV, and now V as Detective Mark Hoffman is back and looking moldier than ever as is Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson; tv’s “Gilmore Girls”), a veteran from Saw IV. Their roaming through the grim and grimy underworld of Jigsaw’s “kingdom” makes for a sometimes confusing cat and mouse game of their own, especially since both men are of the tall, dark and handsome persuasion and prone to wearing dark business suits while waving guns around. I felt like I was taking an eye test trying to figure out who was who half the time.

I found this whole chapter tiresome in its rehashing of the same old storyline without nearly enough new blood spilled to make it exciting on its own. Oh, there are four new “game players” running through the deadly maze in “real” time while all these flashbacks are going on, but there isn’t much reason to care about them. They aren’t tied to the original story or any of the ongoing characters. They are just a little island of “meat” meant to be ground up and spit out (but, alas, not nearly that creatively).

You know as much as I kvetch I’ll still be the first in line to see Saw VI. Why can’t we just ditch the Roman numerals, by the way? Most of the people going to see a Saw aren’t going to be able to figure out what the title is much longer. I mean, these are folks who have gotten fired from Burger King. They’re already calling this installment “Saw Vee” so the next one is going to be “Saw Vee Eye.” I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and am going to imagine that the audience would recognize Arabic numerals instead. You know, 1…2…3…4…5…6. Barring any chainsaw accidents, most guys ought to be able to count up to ten before they need to either take off their shoes or drop their pants, so the Saw franchise is safe for a few more years before we have to go there, although it still doesn’t explain that one guy I saw in the parking lot last week. Hmmm. He must have been counting to at least 21.

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