A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Saw V is a "torture porn" horror movie that's full of graphic, grisly violence that combines sadistic terror with state-of-the-art makeup and effects. Lots characters are killed in lots of ways, all very graphically and all shown on screen. There are flashbacks to deaths and violence from earlier films in the Saw series and extensive use of crime scene photographs showing dead bodies. There's also some strong language (including "f--k"), but the majority of the film involves sadistic brutality crafted by the film's villain as a series of "games" -- like a sequence in which characters trapped in a room with a bomb must volunteer to place their arms in a box with a saw so their blood will fill a jar; when filled, the jar will trigger the door that leads to safety. That's just one example; there are many, many more.
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What's the story?
Picking up immediately after the events in Saw IV, SAW V follows police forensics expert Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), a cop who was originally on the trail of the serial killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) -- but who now has, it seems, become his protégé, continuing Jigsaw's psychotic work after his death. Five strangers are locked in yet another series of rooms filled with Jigsaw's deadly "games," while Hoffman tries to elude FBI agent Strahm (Scott Patterson), who's realizing that Hoffman isn't the man who solved Jigsaw's crimes but instead the man who helped perpetrate them.
Is it any good?
The first Saw film, while hardly brilliant, had a certain grim giddy glee to its inventive murders and terrible tortures; Saw V is worn down and weary under a numbing burden of repetition. The Saw series has become a staple of modern horror, but the fact is that series creators James Wan and Leigh Wannell moved on after Saw III; the Saw movies are now mass-production commodities, and the machinery seems to be lubricated with blood. Saw V flashes back to the earlier Saw films and shows audiences new twists on what has gone before; the assumption that we'll be interested is a fairly presumptuous one on the part of the filmmakers. The acting is at a soap-opera level; the biggest star in the film is Bell (whose Jigsaw may have died in the last movie but gets a surprising amount of screen time nonetheless thanks to all the flashbacks). And the whole film is shot by director David Hackl with a smeary, cheap look, as if the camera lens were behind a thin film of bacon fat or soot.
The film sets up Saw VI, of course, but it also takes the time to show us plenty of horrible violence -- decapitation, self-mutilation, bone-grinding pressure, eviscerating blades -- carried out by deathtrap "games" that the killer uses as objects of moral instruction. Screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan clearly devoted more thought to crafting and developing these games than they did to crafting and developing the characters trapped in them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people are drawn to violent and sadistic films like Saw V. What is their appeal? Also, is there an artistic difference between a well-made gory film and a badly made one? Is there a moral or ethical difference? Families can also discuss the ongoing popularity of the Saw series -- are the producers just giving people what they want, or bleeding a cash cow?
What do you think about the movie's extreme violence. How do the gory images in movies like this impact viewers, especially young ones? Why do you think there's been a trend toward these "torture porn" movies in recent years?
- In theaters: October 24, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: January 20, 2009
- Cast: Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Tobin Bell
- Director: David Hackl
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.
- Last updated: April 8, 2021
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