Horror Movie Month! "Saw V" Review

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In the fifth installment of the SAW horror movie franchise, Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is seemingly the last person alive to carry on Jigsaw's legacy. But when his secret is threatened, he must go on the hunt to eliminate all loose ends. Co-starring Tobin Bell, Scott Patterson, Julie Benz, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Meagan Good & Carlo Rota.
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Horror Movie Month! "Saw V" Review

Rating: R (Sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity)
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: October 24, 2008
Directed By: David Hackl
Genre: Crime/Horror/Thriller

The "Saw" franchise is one of the most visceral and shocking in the horror-movie genre. With numerous installments, each one gorier than the last, it's no surprise why this franchise has taken on such a cult status among horror fans. "Saw V" picks up after the deaths of the infamous torture mastermind Jigsaw and Amanda, his apprentice. Although Jigsaw is dead, his gruesome game is far from over. Five people who have no immediate connection to one another turn up in an abandoned building and find themselves forced into a bloody competition that will require equal parts of wit and brutality to survive.

Agent Strahm, who's been working on the Jigsaw case for years, begins to investigate Mark Hoffman; another detective he suspects may be involved somehow in the Jigsaw murders. Strahm is shocked to learn just how entangled Hoffman is in the series of games that have claimed dozens of lives over the years, including that of Hoffman's younger sister. Seth Baxter is the notorious killer who murdered Hoffman's sister and escaped a lifetime prison sentence when his attorney revealed a legal loophole that set him free. Hoffman immediately kidnapped Seth and used Jigsaw's flair for macabre torture to frame the deceased serial killer, and make it seem as if Seth was simply the latest victim in Jigsaw's series of games. Hoffman makes Seth believe he has a chance to survive, as all Jigsaw's traps are technically possible to escape, but Hoffman's trap is truly inescapable.

After authorities find Seth's body, Strahm's suspicions grow stronger, and he stays close to Hoffman's trail. While Strahm knows the original Jigsaw is dead, he believes Hoffman to be his next apprentice after Amanda. As Strahm gets closer to proving the truth, he finds himself embroiled in the twisted games that Hoffman has chosen to carry on as his own legacy. Meanwhile, the five strangers begin competing in a series of torturous tests designed to test not only their survival skills but also their morals as well. The strangers constantly make moves to thwart one another and ensure their own survival. As their numbers thin and they progress from room to room, they learn the shocking truth that their self-centered strategy may just be their undoing.

The characters in "Saw V" are even more relatable than any other installment of the franchise. "Saw" is known for its gruesome scenes and horrific test chambers, but the true source of the film's horror lies within its attention to character development and story. "Saw V" shows the natural progression from hero to twisted villain that everyone who becomes entangled in Jigsaw's games seems to go through. Hoffman began as an honest detective on the trail of his younger sister's killer, and in the fifth film, he takes Jigsaw's place as the evil mastermind behind the torture of people who find themselves in the same position his sister was in. "Saw IV" showed the same progression from good to evil with Amanda, and the ghost of her character lingers on in "Saw V" as the same story plays out through Hoffman.

Strahm makes an intriguing protagonist, and there is plenty of tension between him and Hoffman. The fact that both men are officers of the law and both have been exposed to horrific sights that have numbed their sense of right and wrong only serves to make their rivalry more intense. Jigsaw may be gone, but his spirit lingers on in Hoffman's cold demeanor, almost as if he has possessed a new host to use as the ringmaster for his elaborate and gory games. "Saw V" delves deeper into the morality of Jigsaw's horrible series of tests than any film so far in the franchise. As characters discuss throughout the film, Jigsaw has managed to refrain from directly killing anyone throughout the franchise; although, he is responsible for numerous deaths. He claimed that each of his victims had the chance to escapeā€”a luxury which Hoffman denies from the beginning.

As the film progresses, the lines between villain and victim are further blurred, making "Saw V" one of the most complex films in the franchise. While each of the players is flawed and selfish in some way, their flaws only make their peril more realistic and gripping. "Saw V" is an intense psychological horror that blends intelligent plot direction and gratuitous violence in a bizarrely effective recipe. Whether you are new to the "Saw" movie franchise or a longtime fan, "Saw V" is one bloody classic you won't want to miss.

Rating: 3 out of 5