CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Blu-Ray Review: ‘Saw V’ Delivers Exactly What Fans Expect
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
CHICAGO – The latest entry in the neverending Saw franchise, “Saw V” hit Blu-Ray this week and, well, it’s a little difficult to review. The video and audio are better-than-average, but the features are sub-par at best and, the movie, well, it’s basically exactly what you’d expect it to be. There’s a reason they hold these movies back from critics. Reviews of the actual film barely seem to matter.
After covering each “Saw” release on its theatrical and home market release, what more is there to say? You know by now if you like “Saw” movies or not. If you do, the Blu-Ray release of “Saw V” will satisfy.
If you’re blissfully unaware of the work of Tobin Bell and Darren Lynn Bousman and wondering what this “Saw” thing is all about, watch the underrated first movie but leave the sequels to the fans. None of them are any good and they grow increasingly useless in the overall horror scene with every installment.
Saw V is released by Lionsgate Home Video on January 20th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate
Luckily, fans do seem to be slightly recognizing the trajectory of the franchise. Since the second “Saw” film, not only has the domestic gross of each entry been a little lower but the IMDB rating for each has also slowly eroded, as has each film’s Rotten Tomatoes score.
Photo credit: Lionsgate
Like the “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” franchises before it, horror produced this quickly and this ineptly has an unavoidable law of diminishing returns. It’s clearly only a matter of time before we get to “Saw VIII: Jigsaw Takes Manhattan” and then the franchise can finally come to a conclusion. (At least until the Rob Zombie of 2030 revives the “Saw” movies with a gory, new version.)
As for “Saw V,” I actually didn’t hate it as much as the last two entries. Maybe I’m numb to the routine by now. At least the traps are mildly inventive once again, something they haven’t been in a while. The opening, an homage to both “The Pit and the Pendulum” and the original film, as a murderer who escaped on a technicality faces being cut in half unless he crushes his own hands, is the perfect twisted puzzle for the franchise. And a self-tracheotomy that shortly follows is a little nifty.
“Saw V” tries to tie together the entire franchise and follow two plotlines at the same time. At the end of “Saw IV,” Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) shot Jeff Reinhart (Angus Macfadyen) and found himself in a room with the body of the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) and a tape. Strahm barely survives what comes next and begins to suspect that perhaps Jigsaw didn’t act alone. He realizes that the only person who made it out from the night that almost killed him was Lieutenant Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and becomes suspicious. Meanwhile, Hoffman has to tie up loose ends.
At the same time, five strangers (including Meagan Good and Julie Benz) wake up in a sewer trapped in a situation like the poor souls from “Saw II,” trying to figure out why they’re there while being presented with a series of deadly traps that they will be forced to solve together, whether they like it or not.
There are things to like about “Saw V” - the way it tries to link all of the films and a more intriguing series of traps - but it still reeks of a quickie attempt to cash in on a franchise before it loses steam completely. And the performances are of the caliber you would expect for a straight-to-video quickie, which is especially sad considering the great work Patterson and Benz have done on television. No one is memorable here.
Photo credit: Lionsgate
Ultimately, “Saw V” is a little better than this critic who has hated the last three films expected, but that bar could not possibly have been any lower. However, I recognize that I’m not the audience for this film and believe that people who enjoyed the first four will almost certainly be satisfied.
“Saw V” is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The video is excellent with a very rich color palette and crystal clear picture, even in the darker scenes. With just the right amount of grain and a great level of detail, “Saw V” completely satisfies visually. The audio, presented in a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, is a perfect fit. It’s the best technical presentation for a “Saw” film to date.
The special features, however, are a little bland and clearly incomplete. There are two commentaries, one with Director David Hackl and First Assistant Director Steve Webb and one with Producer Oren Koules and Mark Burg and Executive Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine. Both are for hardcore fans only.
Two commentaries is nice, but no deleted scenes and lackluster featurettes sink “Saw V” on Blu-Ray. By now, fans expect featurettes on Blu-Ray releases to be in HD as well and the standard definition, five-minute ones are shockingly lackluster. Three of the major traps in the film - “The Pendulum,” “The Cube,” and “The Coffin” - have their design and execution examined. It would have been more interesting to see them all in one behind-the-scenes featurette in HD.
Finally, “The Fatal Five” is a 12-minute look at the strangers in the sewer and “Slicing the Cube: Editing the Cube Trap” is pretty self-explanatory.
After the film’s initial release, director David Hackl made a few comments about 14 minutes worth of deleted scenes and alternate takes that he would reincorporate into a director’s cut. The “Unrated Director’s Cut” in this version runs four minutes longer than the theatrical, but it feels like that’s primarily just more gore shots and not what Hackl was talking about. Clearly, something is being held back for a future release, probably when “Saw VI” hits theaters later this year.
What’s funny is that even the boring special features should be routine to “Saw” fans by now. The idea that this release of “Saw V” is just holding fans over until a more elaborate edition is released with the next film in the franchise is something Jigsaw junkies are used to. Lionsgate has been doing it for years. Everything about “Saw V” on Blu-Ray, from the movie to the special features, should be exactly what fans expect.