Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw V (Part 1)

Previously on Saw IV...

Rhargh, do not make me recap all that again! Let's just say Detective Mark Hoffman is the new Jigsaw but his deceased master still intends to test him from beyond the grave. Also, FBI Agent Peter Strahm is the fourth straight lead to end a Saw movie locked in a room full of dead bodies.

As horror movie franchises continue along their bloody ways, you understandably begin get diminishing returns on quality. When the crux of your stories is thinking up different ways for dumbasses to get killed, eventually you're going to start running low on ideas. Let's take a quick look at some other iconic movies to see how they dealt with the fifth chapter of their stories.

Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning: like the title says, this was an attempt to reboot the dying franchise with a new villain and a new atmosphere of psychological horror its previous slasher tendencies. It didn't work, and Jason was quickly brought back for the next movie.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child: a pseudo reboot of sorts, this was meant to return the series to its darker roots with the added concept of bringing Freddy into the real world. Again, it didn't work because the tone was all over the place and ended up being the second lowest grossing film of the series.

Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers: after the fourth movie brought the series roaring back with a jaw dropping cliffhanger, this film was a direct continuation that dropped the ball about as hard as a ball can be dropped. Considered the worst movie in the series, even worse than the mystifying third one that had NOTHING TO DO WITH MICHAEL MYERS OR HALLOWEEN.

Hellraiser 5: Inferno: the first straight to video movie in the series, so already that should tell you how this was going to turn out. Another pseudo-reboot, this abandoned virtually everything from the previous films to try to tell a new story with a psychological slant. Things quickly went back to normal for the next film.

The Amityville Horror 5: The Amityville Curse: this one TOTALLY abandoned everything from the previous movies and went for an all rebooted new story- you know what? I think you get the idea at this point. The majority of horror films use the fifth movie as a giant reset button to jettison their bloated continuity and try to begin again.

Lo and behold, that's what we got with Saw V. Yes, it continues the narrative from the first four movies but basically with a new villain and protagonist (I just can't call him a hero) we're getting an all new world to play in. Darren Lynn Bousman finally left the series after trying to get out for the past two movies, David Hackl stepping into the director's chair in his place. Hackl had worked on the previous three films as a designer and second-unit director, so he was already very familiar with the material. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan returned for writing duties, and this time the story was one hundred percent theirs.

Financially the movie was another home run for Lionsgate, continuing the series tradition of making over ten times its budget. Critically it continued another series of plummeting review scores, this one eking out a dreadful TWELVE PERCENT fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. You know the scariest thing about that? This isn't even the lowest score these movies would “achieve”. What did it do to earn so much scorn? Time to find out with A Ghoul Versus Saw V!

We open with a heavily tattooed man named Seth waking up to find himself chained to a table. Do I even have to say what happens next? Well actually I do, as he meets the criteria for escaping his trap but it still kills him. We see an eye watching him through the wall as the title card drops. Returning to the film, we find Strahm still trapped in the Gideon Meatpacking Plant trying to find a way out. Instead of an exit he finds a tape player, so let's see what his crimes are besides getting in Hoffman's way.

“Hello Agent Strahm, if you're hearing this then you've finally found what you've been looking for. But is the discovery of my body enough? Or will your insatiable hunger to uncover the truth push you deeper into the abyss? Heed my warning: do not proceed. For this can either be your sanctuary or it can be your grave. The choice is yours.”.

Strahm keeps looking for a way out but instead gets tranquillized by Pig Mask. He wakes up in the Cube Trap, which was used heavily in the advertising of the film so you know they were proud of this one. A small glass cube is placed around his head and begins to fill with water, attempting to drown him. He sees all of his possessions that could have broken the glass sitting across the room from him, tantalizingly out of reach.

This is the first creative trap they've had in awhile, so cheers to them on this one. And even more creative is how Strahm chooses to deal with it: he finds a pen in his pocket and gives himself an emergency tracheotomy so he can breathe through his neck. Where the fuck was this kind of intelligence in the last movie Peter?!

Help soon arrives from the police that Strahm called when he arrived at the plant, as we see Hoffman carrying Corbett out of the building. And yes, she is holding the stuffed animal he bought in the last movie, which is a very nice touch. Although it does make me wonder how much Jigsaw and Hoffman were working together on their respective plans, but that's something that will likely never get answered so I'm not going to fry my brain trying to figure it out.

Detective Fisk asks Hoffman what the hell happened, learning no one survived. Hoffman is quickly proven wrong as the paramedics bring out Strahm on a gurney, which actually surprises him. What? This shouldn't have surprised him as he left the pen in Strahm's pocket, so he had to have figured the agent would have been smart enough to figure out what to do with it. I can understand him thinking Strahm is an idiot after the last movie, but this is really lowballing it.

Across the city, Jill Tuck meets with a lawyer named Mr. Feldman, who was instructed by John to give her a box of goodies in case of his death. She opens the box and looks pissed off, but naturally we don't get to see what's inside. Meanwhile the police are holding a press conference to officially announce the end of the Jigsaw murders, as well as honour the fallen five hundred officers who lost their lives in this clusterfuck. We see photos of all the fallen heroes including Detective Tapp, which brings up an interesting question because did he actually die at the end of the first Saw?

If you remember we last saw him lying on the ground bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest, but he was still quite alive. Now it's safe to assume Jigsaw and crew finished him off because he was never mentioned again, but in reality he did survive and got away. Saw: The Video Game continued his arc in a canon approved storyline, which as I said previously was written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell.

There we learn Jigsaw healed Tapp and placed him in a trial taking place in an abandoned asylum, Tapp fighting through a sea of familiar faces to try to escape. It's EASILY a better story than pretty much all of the movies, and really helps to flesh out background details of the series. In the end Tapp does win his freedom but Jigsaw gets away again, leading to the ex-detective to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. There's an alternate ending where Tapp ends up sent to a REAL asylum after totally losing his shit, but this is not official as confirmed by both the sequel and this movie.

Hoffman gets a promotion out of all this, stepping up to the podium and basically delivering a Jigsaw monologue about how precious life is. Hope no one was paying that close of attention! The new detective lieutenant returns to his office, where he pauses to look at a photo of a lovely dark haired woman. Whoa, I smell flashbacks a coming! Oh, guess not. They even had flashback music playing and everything.

Looking around his office he notices an envelope with his name on it under his keyboard, opening it to find a note saying “I know who you are”. Concerned, he goes to the station's evidence room where he takes out Strahm's cell phone... for some reason. Whatever he's playing at is interrupted by an officer who pops in and tells him to go to the hospital because Perez's status has changed. He finds Strahm in her room, learning she has passed away from her injuries. Strahm, talking in a VERY distracting voice due to his tracheotomy, tells the detective her last words were “Detective Hoffman”. Strahm is highly suspicious about how Hoffman walked out of the plant unscathed, but has no evidence to accuse him of anything... yet.

Later Strahm gets visited in the hospital by his boss Agent Dan Erickson, who promptly takes him off the Jigsaw case due to his mishandling of the whole thing.  Erickson is played by Mark Rolston, who has a filmography of some awesome films (Aliens, The Shawshank Redemption) and some not so awesome ones (Robocop 2, Body Of Evidence).  He rightfully brings up Strahm going to the plant without backup, probably making Erickson my new favourite character in the movie. Hoffman enters his hidden base of operations, where we see a field of monitors showing traps in varying levels of completion.
For the rest of the series we're just going to go off the assumption that Jigsaw taught Hoffman how to build traps so we aren't constantly distracted by how a police officer would know how to construct some of these things.  He looks at a monitor showing five people lying unconscious in a room containing five glass boxes as the camera transitions to them waking up. Haven't had one of these in awhile, so let's do a quick roll call:

-Brit, played by everyone's favourite raspy voiced actress Julie Benz. Benz has been in a million things and never fails to be awesome.
-Charles, played by Carlo Rota. He's been in a ton of TV shows, most notably 24.
-Ashley, played by Laura Gordon in her only major film role to date.
-Luba, played by Meagan Good , another talented actress of both the big and small screen. 2008 was NOT a good year for her though, as in addition to this disaster of a movie she was also in the Godawful remake of One Missed Call AND the film that pretty much killed Mike Myers' live action career The Love Guru.
-Mallick, played by Greg Bryk, another very good actor who has been in many critically acclaimed TV shows including the excellent XIII.

That's one of the better casts they've had in a Saw movie, especially when compared to the last group of people trapped in a building. The five find they all have cables around their necks attached by a locked collar, with the cables slowly being pulled up towards the ceiling. They won't have the chance to be hung to death though, as halfway up a giant pair of blades waits for each person's head. That's enough establishment of the terror awaiting these people, let's see what Billy thinks about all this.

“Hello and welcome. From birth, you've all been given the advantages of few others. Yet through poor moral decisions you've used these advantages to selfishly further only yourselves at the expense of others. Well, today this singular way of thinking will be put to the test. Today, five will become one, with a common goal of survival. You are all connected. A cable runs through your collar devices. It can be pulled so tight that you will be decapitated on the mounted razors. The only way to remove the collar is with the keys from the glass boxes on the pedestals before you. However if one of you moves to retrieve a key, the 60-second timer will begin for you all. In choosing how to react to this situation you lifelong instincts will tell you to do one thing but I implore you to do the opposite. Let the games begin”.

A different timer of 15 minutes begins after the tape ends, Luba suggesting this is just a way to test their endurance and they should just stay still. Charles disagrees, seeing the timer is set to a a series of nail bombs along the room. Ashley says they're probably rigged with C4, Mallick wondering how the hell she would know that. Charles says it's because she's a fire inspector, but declines to answer HOW he knows about her. Right off the bat I can see what they're going for here, as they want us to be suspicious of all of these people in thinking one might be working with Hoffman. Kind of clever since we've already seen this plot in Saw II, the writers are now trying to mess with our heads.

Click here for Part 2!