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Feature


Jigsaw is back, again. Well, sort of, technically he’s still dead, but thanks to the advent of the flashback, and the addition of a new apprentice in the fourth film (who was apparently there the whole time), his games go on. And on. And on.

Saw V: Unrated
When’s the last time the fifth film in a series was anything more than a parody of the previous entries? Nightmare on Elm Street 5, the one were Freddy tries to have a dream baby? Despite the best intensions of director Stephen Hopkin’s, Freddy’s fifth movie is pretty much a joke. How about Friday the 13th Part 5, the one without Jason or his mother? Well, it’s not quite as bad as the die-hards will have you believe, but it’s hard to remember anything specific about it. Halloween, The Howling, Children of the Corn, these series were long dead before they even made it to number five. What hope does a film like Saw V have, especially after the lacklustre fourth entry?

The Saw franchise continues to define its narrative with one of the most convoluted timelines in film history, a fact which many fans seem to confuse with intelligent, or intricate writing. Where once I was at least a little impressed by the Saturday Morning Matinee storytelling style, and how stringently the producers were sticking to it, I now find myself frustrated that the first acts are elongated ‘previously on’ messages, and the last acts are elongated trailers for the next in the series. It’s supposed to flow like one super-movie, but it comes off more as a series of cutting room rejects used for padding. The number of flashbacks required to tell the story of the latest film verge on parody, and God help anyone who didn’t see the previous four films, in order, seconds before seeing the fifth, because any time they allude without a flashback the expectation is left entirely on you.

Saw V: Unrated
Perhaps the most hair-pullingly stupid aspect of these last two films, Saw V especially, is the way each plays as two half films, one continuation of the Jigsaw storyline, and the other an almost entirely unrelated set of characters in traps. There’s almost no effort made to connect the stories anymore. If you were to delete the traps and flashbacks from the second, third, fourth, and fifth movies you’re left with a series of thirty minute movies about arguing cops. Of course, if you deleted the traps and flashbacks you wouldn’t exactly have a Saw movie, and Lionsgate knows that name branding is important. Actually, if studio really wants to continue telling increasingly shallow minded series of stories about death-traps they should probably look into video games. The narrative sections of the film already ebb and flow like skippable cut-scenes, stopping for the ‘game’ every ten minutes or so.

Video


Once again, if you skipped my review of Repo! The Genetic Opera, Lionsgate didn’t send me the Blu-ray versions of their latest two releases until the Monday before release. I had already written about the quality of the A/V on the DVDs, and decided to do a more direct comparison between the two than I normally would.

Saw V: Unrated
First time director David Hackl, who acted as assistant director on other films in the series, does a perfect Darren Lynn Bousman impersonation, keeping the series visually consistent (take that as you will). All the familiar primary tints and the deep blacks are here, as are those rich blood reds. In high definition any of the transfer’s short comings are a direct effect of the film’s singularly grimy style. The overall darkness of the frame doesn’t open the transfer up to a whole lot of strong detail, and leads to a bit of image loss due to grain. The blacks are indeed black, creating a thick inky outline for the whole of the film, which both defines the details, and creates a sort of flatness to the composition. Colours are also simply and graphically defined, though the sickly mix of blue and yellow lighting does lead to some soft gradations on figures and faces.

The DVD, on the other hand, is a pretty big disappointment in the video department. The blacks are deep, and the colours plenty bright, but the lines that separate them are a mess. It appears someone pushed the sharpness levels too far, and the resulting edge enhancement is a major problem. There are issues with interlacing effects, a general lack of quality detail, and a slight loss of the more subtle lighting.

Audio


Has anyone else noticed the lack of DTS sound on DVD since the advent of Blu-ray? The old Saw DVDs always seemed to have awesome DTS tracks (at least the second releases), but since part four they don’t seem to care anymore. This Dolby Digital EX track is nothing to sneeze at though, unless you’re allergic to heavy bass and unmotivated rear channel effects. The Blu-ray’s ramped-to-the-extreme DTS-HD Master Audio Track is, of course, the superior, but there aren’t any complaints from me on either account. Again, the Saw brand continues, including all those zippy camera moves that inexplicably create a whoosh sound on the soundtrack. It’s very silly, but it sounds pretty great on the track, which also features some very busy music, screaming, and machinery sound during the louder than hell trap scenes. The DTS track is particularly wide in scope, and features a bass track to knock you off your couch.

Saw V: Unrated

Extras


Extras begin with two commentary tracks, one featuring director David Hackl and first assistant director Steve Webb (who I’m sure is being groomed for Saw VIII, and the other with producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules, and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. Hackl and Webb start rambling right off the bat, but start to get into a decent groove after a while, if not a slightly too self congratulatory. I definitely caught a Canadian accent in there a few times too. Last time around the producers’ track was much less informative than the director track, but this time around I think that tonally I prefer the less personal approach that the producer track takes. It’s a sort of sad truth that this is a producer directed series at this point, and the producers actually know more about where the franchise is going than the directors.

I should note that there was talk on horror sites of the director’s cut being much longer and re-ordered. Assuming the IMDb.com length is accurate, this version is only a few minutes longer, and there’s no mention of scene re-ordering on either commentary track that I caught.

Next are a series of featurettes concerning the film’s traps. The first four featurettes (‘The Pendulum Trap’, ‘The Cube Trap’, ‘The Coffin Trap’, and ‘The Fatal Five’) cover the mechanics of the trap in the film, the mechanics of the real-life trap, the make-up effects required to make the trap believable, and the safety precautions taken. They’re made up of behind the scenes footage, interviews, and footage from the final film. The last featurette, ‘Slicing the Cube’, covers the editing process of the Cube Trap. I must say I continue to be impressed with the practical effects in these films. Almost all the traps actually work. The problem with the featurettes is there’s no ‘play all’ option, which is silly when you consider that none of them are longer than eleven minutes (most are only five), and each one has its own end credits.

Saw V: Unrated
The DVD finishes up with a Saw V trailer, and trailers for other Lionsgate releases. The only Blu-ray only extras are MOLOG and bookmark options.

Overall


Ah, but wait, while looking up plot information on the previous films (because who can remember this shit?) I see that wikipedia has a listing for a Saw videogame, set to come out in October of this year, just in time for Saw VI (I assume). Maybe they’re actually aiming to make these films increasingly video-game-like, to ease their audience into the prospect. The films have become an unfortunate parody of what started as a decent idea, and the only reason to keep watching from a non-fan point of view is the occasionally impressive acting, mostly Tobin Bell, who still chills as Jigsaw, even in this small capacity.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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