Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, and Scott Patterson. Rated 18A.
The fifth installment of the Saw franchise doesn’t waste any time getting to the torture-porn aspect the series is known for. The opening scene sees a muscular, bare-chested man—a vicious killer released from prison on a technicality—find justice via the old pit-and-the-pendulum routine.
The added attraction here is that the spread-eagled convict is offered a way out; all he has to do is place both of his murderous mitts in two nearby vises and have them flattened into paste. Unfortunately for this guy, and luckily for the gorehound contingent, he who hesitates is toast.
Human hands are offered up for mutilation again later on in a drawn-out torture sequence that rivals the squirm-in-your-seat factor of Hostel’s infamous drill-to-the-eyeball scene—and this time the pain is self-inflicted!
Between these gruesome set pieces runs a convoluted plot that uses revisionist flashbacks to show how the sadistic death-trap games of evil genius Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, whose character died two sequels ago) are carried on by Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) while he’s pursued by another Saw IV survivor, FBI Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson, whose best acting involves puncturing his own windpipe).
The story line also follows the plight of five self-serving strangers who are kidnapped and forced to atone for their sins by running a gauntlet of decrepit rooms booby-trapped with nail bombs.
As the lowly Saw films go, this one actually ranks a close second to Saw II in overall effectiveness. The ultra-creepy score and eerie sound effects have a weirdly demented resonance, especially when used in harmony with Jigsaw’s whispered ramblings on the dark side of human nature.
But the best thing about this—and any—Saw film is the sick production design. Whoever’s responsible for creating these disgustingly grungy chambers of death deserves an Oscar for scuzziness.