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Film / Saw V

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WARNING: All spoilers from previous films in the Saw franchise are unmarked here. Read on or go backmake your choice.

"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?"
Jigsaw (via tape)

Saw V is the fifth film in the Saw horror film series, released on October 25, 2008 and directed by David Hackl, who had previously worked as the production designer for Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, as well as a second-unit director for the latter two films.

Following Jigsaw's death, Detective Mark Hoffman has revealed himself as one of the notorious killer's apprentices. After saving a young girlnote  and seemingly escaping one of Jigsaw's traps, he is hailed by the public as a hero and credited with closing the Jigsaw case for good. However, after a brief but effective encounter with Hoffman, FBI Agent Peter Strahm becomes driven to pursue Hoffman and eventually out him for who he truly is.

At the same time, with Jigsaw's threat that he will not go untested in the back of his mind, Hoffman seeks to continue his legacy and maintain his anonymity by any means necessary. The film also delves a good part of its runtime into Hoffman's backstory, explaining how he became a Jigsaw apprentice.

Meanwhile, five people find themselves in an unknown location as the unwilling participants of Jigsaw's newest game, where he implores them to work together to survive.

Preceded by Saw IV. Followed by Saw VI.

Saw V provides examples of:

  • The Bad Guy Wins: Hoffman gets away with everything and manages to throw the FBI off his trail, while Strahm, one of the only people who knows he's the new Jigsaw, dies in an extremely gruesome manner.
  • Blatant Lies: Seth claims the murder he committed was an accident, but a flashback shows that his girlfriend's throat was slit. Yeah, he "accidentally" slit her throat.
  • Body Horror:
    • The "5 Pints of Blood" table splits Mallick and Brit's arms in half almost down to the elbow.
    • In the midst of being crushed, Strahm suffers a serious compound fracture, with one of his arm bones erupting outward.
  • Captain Obvious: Strahm spends much of his screen time telling the audience what he sees and stating things that are already quite apparent.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In Saw IV, there was a trap seen in Jigsaw's workshop after he tells Jill to leave him alone. Said trap is used by Hoffman to protect himself from Strahm at the climax of this movie.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: At the police ceremony, the Chief of Police mentions the Metropolitan Police Department's officers who died in the previous films as honor for their involvement in the Jigsaw killings.
  • Continuity Nod: In the background of the workshop room where John takes Hoffman to upon abducting him, a prototype design of the Shotgun Collar from Saw III and Bobby the Puppet from Saw IV are visible in the background (the latter being particularly noticeable on the mirror's reflection).
  • Continuity Porn: Although all the installments starting around the time of this movie feature prominent Continuity Porn, this one spent a particularly large chunk on it as it tried to retroactively fit Hoffman into the previous installments.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: The flashbacks to Angelina's death briefly show Hoffman cradling the hand of her corpse, and no one willing to pull him away.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Strahm receives what's widely considered to be one of the most brutal deaths in the entire series: being crushed to death between closing walls, and slowly enough that we can see most every bone in his body being flattened.
  • Dead Man Writing: Jill receives a box John requested by their executor, which includes a video tape where he gives a farewell message to her.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Strahm once he finds out Hoffman is an apprentice of Jigsaw. He winds up crushed to death.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Strahm survives the previous film and becomes the protagonist here, leading the viewer to believe that he might be the hero of the second trilogy and be the one to bring down Hoffman. Instead, he gets brutally killed at the end.
  • Dirty Coward: In the Pendulum Trap, Seth whines, yells for help, says it was an accident, and has trouble even completing the task of crushing his hands.
  • Domestic Abuser: Seth murdered his girlfriend, who also happened to be Hoffman's sister.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: One of the flashbacks features Hoffman drinking alcoholic drinks at a bar to emphasize his depression at the moment. It's implied in flashbacks taking place at similar points in the whole franchise that this ended up boiling into alcoholism, hence Hoffman's unusual open violence towards others outside of his typical killing job.
  • Drowning Pit: Strahm has his head locked into a watertight box that fills with water and would eventually drown him. He withstands it by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy with a ball-point pen until he's eventually freed and taken to an ambulance.
  • Electric Torture: The third room involves a bathtub and five electrodes that need to be connected, but the wires the electrodes are on are too short to just be placed in the water. Brit kills Luba and uses her body to connect the electrodes, but in the end, she figures out that if they had worked together, they could have each taken an electrode and put one foot in the tub. It certainly would have given them a shock, but it wouldn't have killed them.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Peewee, a German shepherd, barks ferociously at Hoffman in a flashback shortly after he killed his sister's murderer in a fake Jigsaw trap.
  • Fatal Flaw: Selfishness. Every individual member of the "Fatal Five" only thinks about how they can survive the tests and doesn't think about saving anyone besides themselves. Because of this, only two of them survive, instead of all five of them.
  • Final Boy: Of the Fatal Five, Mallick.
  • Final Girl: Of the Fatal Five, Brit.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • If one looks closely at the newspaper article pinned on a board in Hoffman's office, it contains, among other things, the only time Billy the Puppet's name is stated within the franchise.
    • Adam's full name can be spotted amongst the files when Strahm goes through the FBI's various folders on the Jigsaw victims, implying not only that Lawrence survived his trap two entire movies before it's proven, but that he wound up communicating with police and law enforcement in the aftermath of the Bathroom Trap.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: The second flashback montage spawned from Strahm's solo investigation on Hoffman (specifically, during the Shotgun Chair scene) is juxtaposed with a series of brief scenes that visually detail how Hoffman's period of depression and Seth's murder went down (including a flashback from the previous montage).
  • Genre Savvy: The Fatal Five victims are this to some degree. By this point, everyone's heard of Jigsaw and knows how his games work, including that you have to follow his directions to the word. That said, the victims still fail to grasp some of the subtext behind the words, so there's still a body count.
  • A Glass of Chianti: John drinks wine from a teacup before interrogating Hoffman about why he tried to frame him with an inescapable trap just to murder someone.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: How Seth ends up dying in the Pendulum Trap.
  • A House Divided: Inverted with the Fatal Five's Trial, in which Jigsaw meant for the victims to work together through the hints he gave them as a lesson for their selfishness. Too bad the victims were so determined to act this trope out straight...
  • Idle Rich: Mallick claims that he used his parents' money to finance his drug habit.
  • Immediate Sequel: The film immediately begins shortly before the opening scene of Saw IV, after Hoffman leaves Strahm trapped in the room with John, Amanda, Lynn and Jeff.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: A rare example of someone doing this to survive; Strahm quickly disassembles the pen from his pocket as the cube his head is sealed in is quickly filling with water, and stabs himself in the throat with the tubing, allowing him to survive the intentionally unwinnable trap.
  • Improvisational Ingenuity: At the beginning of the film, Strahm wakes up after being knocked out by Hoffman, and finds himself in one of Jigsaw's traps: his entire body is able to move except for his head, which is sealed from the neck up in a glass cube that's quickly filling with water. Since both Jigsaw and Hoffman designed the trap with the intention of executing anyone in it, there's no built-in way to survive, and Strahm is supposed to drown. But Strahm reaches into his pocket, pulls out a pen, unscrews it to take it apart (all while he's on the verge of drowning, keep in mind), and gives himself an Impromptu Tracheotomy with the pen's tubing, allowing him to finally breathe. The look on Hoffman's face when he tells the cops outside that no one but him made it out of the meatpacking plant, only to turn around and see Strahm alive and kicking, is absolutely priceless.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Strahm gets his head locked up in a presumably inescapable trap that fills up with water in order to drown him. What does he do? He digs out a pen from his pocket and (while most likely not having any skill in advanced medical practice) performs a tracheotomy with it. A fucking pen.
  • Iron Lady: Brit is the senior vice president of a real estate development company, and will do sketchy things to get her work done her way.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: How John Kramer in a flashback views Hoffman's inescapable Pendulum Trap he put the murderer of his sister in.
    John: They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I find it somewhat distasteful. Taking credit for work that's not mine, especially inferior work.
  • Kill It with Fire: Mallick set a building with people living in it on fire, all to get a fix.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: When his sister is killed by Seth and Seth is later let off on a technicality, Hoffman avenges her death by killing the man in such a way that it would appear to be another Jigsaw killing.
  • Lighter and Softer: After the excruciating violence displayed in Saw III and Saw IV, Saw V noticeably dials back the gore a few notches. Many of the deaths are dished out in mere seconds rather than dragged out to a cringe-inducing snail's pace, reducing the graphic violence to the level of Saw and Saw II. Even the bloodiest sequences don't keep the camera panned on the grim details for too long. This decision may have been inspired by the Moral Guardians decrying the series as Torture Porn a few installments earlier, but after Saw V, the violence unapologetically spikes back up again. The film also has one of the lowest kill counts in the series; only six people die, one being an Asshole Victim and another killed off-screen. The Fatal Five has a rather impressive 40% survival rate, rather good odds for a horror film.
  • Locked in a Room: An interesting example: each of the four traps in the main game is seemingly designed so that one person has to die for the others to move on, but all five could have survived to the end if they had worked together. "Five will become one" works on so many levels.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Charles is blown to pieces in the Hanging Jar room.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Mallick is clearly distraught by the arson he committed, angrily lashing out at Brit after he learns she organized the scheme.
    • Judging by the look on her face when Mallick angrily asks her if she knew about the eight people living in the warehouse when she decided to have it burned down to take the property, Brit seems to have realized the gravity of what she's done.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job shoving Hoffman into the glass box, Strahm!
  • Off on a Technicality: Seth was originally sentenced to life in prison, but was released after only five years due to an unexplained legal technicality.
  • Off with Her Head!: Ashley gets her head sliced off in the Fatal Five's first trap.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Probably the only time you hear John get angry and raise his voice is when he's blackmailing Hoffman, when the two briefly argue over the death of the man who killed Hoffman's sister.
    Hoffman: She was my only family. He didn't deserve a chance. He was an ANIMAL!
    Hoffman: You didn't see the blood! You didn't see what he FUCKING DID TO HER!
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: As a Knight Templar Big Brother, Hoffman avenges his sister's death by killing her boyfriend.
  • Pendulum of Death: Seth Baxter wakes up in a room chained to a table, with two vices on either side of it. Above him is a large, bladed pendulum that begins to swing after his tape finishes playing. Seth has sixty seconds to push buttons in the back of the vices that will crush his hands in order to stop the pendulum from reaching his body. Seth inserts his hands, but quickly pulls them out in fear. Trying again, he succeeds in crushing his hands and the pendulum ceases swinging for a few moments, but after a short pause, the pendulum reactivates and descends far enough to begin cutting into his abdomen, slicing him in half, confirming that the trap was inescapable.
  • Power of Trust: Although the test the Fatal Five go through seems like a survival of the fittest competition at first, all of them could have survived if they cooperated as revealed later. However, through Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, only Mallick and Brit make it to the end, with Brit making it clear she would have likely killed Mallick if she had to.
  • Pragmatic Hero: In the electric bathub, Brit kills Luba instead of Mallick because he would be less likely to turn against her.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: An interesting example in that the people in the Prisoner's Dilemma don't know (i.e. are not told) from the start that they are in such a situation. The "Fatal Five" are implicitly meant to work together to make it past all of the traps, but since they (probably rightfully) assume that it's every person for themself, they wind up making things substantially harder as the group dwindles.
  • Put on a Bus: The ending of Saw III revealed that Jeff's daughter was still trapped somewhere and Jeff would have to go through an entire new game in order to rescue her, and this rescue would be the MacGuffin that would drive the next few films. After her father had a bridge dropped on him at the end of the previous installment, she is found and rescued by the police ten minutes into this movie and never heard from again.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Hoffman tilts his head towards Strahm while inside the Glass Coffin.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Due to Scott Patterson's original contract for three films, Strahm was intended to survive this film. However, director David Hackl stated that he'd never seen a character in a The Walls Are Closing In situation get actually killed by the implement threatening to crush them, so the ending was changed to the one where Strahm gets crushed.
  • Shown Their Work: Before filming the third room (the conductor room) in the sewer trap, the crew did check out the physics involved to make sure the electrical engineering involved in the trap would actually work.
  • Slashed Throat: Although not actually seen, a flashback shows that Seth murdered his girlfriend by slitting her throat.
  • Squashed Flat: Strahm's ultimate, graphic fate.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Strahm was previously introduced in IV, and dies at the end of this movie.
    • Rigg was shot at the end of IV, but was otherwise alive. He is declared dead at the beginning of this movie.
    • David Tapp, whose fate was unclear at the end of the first movie, is confirmed to be dead in this one.
  • Taken Off the Case: After getting out of the meatpacking plant alive and arguing with Hoffman over Perez's supposed last wordsnote  (which led Strahm to become suspicious of Hoffman), Strahm is taken off the case on the order of his superior Erickson, after which he goes to investigate and pursue Hoffman on his own.
    Strahm: Jigsaw's dead! How many lives did I inevitably save?
    Erickson: By endangering yourself and others? You're off the case.
    Strahm: On whose orders?
    Erickson: Mine. I'm sorry, Peter. It's over.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Strahm, you REALLY should've listened to Jigsaw's recorded warning of continuing on. He winds up put in the Water Cube by Hoffman, but miraculously manages to survive. He doesn't learn his lesson in the end, however, because he doesn't bother listening to Hoffman's own recording, and ends up crushed to death for it.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Seth's actions led to Hoffman becoming Jigsaw's accomplice, and killing many, many people in future installments.
  • Video Wills: Upon his death, John leaves a tape to Jill, where he explains the importance of the box their executor Bernie Feldman gave her. This sets the gears in motion for John's posthumous plans that affect the plot of the series up to Saw 3D.
  • Villain Has a Point: Seth's last words are used pointing out the fact that he did what he was told to do to pass his test and that he should have been allowed to live afterward. As Jigsaw later tells Hoffman, everybody deserves a fair chance, even murderers like Seth.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: The final trap involves this. Not only does Strahm fail to escape it by climbing up to the ceiling, but the scene graphically shows the perils of trying to "brace yourself" to stop the walls, as the bones splinter out of Strahm's limbs. Furthermore, in a flashback in Saw VI, Hoffman retracts the walls and looks over what's left of Strahm before taking his remaining hand. It's really not a pretty sight. Word of God stated that, when they made the trap, they made it with the intent of showing just how graphic it could really get.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Ashley is killed minutes into the Fatal Five's introduction, and we barely learn anything about her other than her role in the arson.
  • White Shirt of Death: Subverted and inverted with Strahm.
    • The subversion happens at the beginning of the film when Strahm gets abducted by Hoffman and is put in a trap meant to be inescapable. His white shirt at the time gets stained in blood, but he survives the trap long enough to be rescued afterwards.
    • The inversion happens at the end of the film, where Strahm, with the black T-shirt that he wore for most of the movie, suffers one of the series' most gruesome deaths in the Glass Coffin's room.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Strahm ambushes and fights Hoffman in the glass coffin room where Strahm overpowers and beats Hoffman before sealing him in the glass coffin. He gloats about how he got Hoffman, until the room they were in seals itself shut. When Strahm demands how to unlock the door from the trapped Hoffman, he mockingly points to the tape recorder, which plays the rest of the message he failed to listen to. Strahm just locked Hoffman in the one safe area in the room while he's left to be crushed to death. So who got who here?
  • Wife-Basher Basher: It's revealed that Seth Baxter, a Domestic Abuser who killed his girlfriend, was Hoffman's first murder victim, and said girlfriend was Hoffman's sister.
  • Xanatos Gambit: What Hoffman turns out to have been enacting against Strahm throughout the film. The outcome is what he had hoped for, with Strahm getting himself killed and the FBI believing him to be the wanted Jigsaw apprentice, throwing them off the scent of Hoffman himself. However, even if Strahm had followed his instructions and survived the final trap, the FBI would have still thought he was the apprentice in question, meaning he would have been either arrested, forced into hiding, or possibly even Hoffman being able to blackmail him into actually becoming an accomplice. And if things had somehow gone really wrong and resulted in Hoffman being killed by the trap, then it would have looked as if Strahm had killed him to cover up his identity, making him doubly screwed.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The so-called "Fatal Five", who were all involved in an arson case in which eight people died, are tested in a catacomb place for their selfishness. While they were meant to work together through various hints, only two of them survive at the end because they were determined to fight each other.

"Did you help Jigsaw get all of them?"