I defended the Saw franchise long past the point where most self-respecting cinephiles and even genre geeks abandoned it. It was only after the moronic, baffling Saw IV that I got off the bandwagon. But as someone who thinks the franchise has (had?) something to offer beyond the admittedly questionable thrills of what smug know-nothings call "torture porn," I'm anticipating this month's annual installment with an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope. The first three films took a gimmicky serial killer concept and expanded it to something big and increasingly baroque, piling on twist after twist that, to me, consistently seemed bold rather than (merely) ludicrous. They were gruesome, yes, but they were also moody and visually exciting; Darren Lynn Bousman, in particular, seemed to take painstaking care in the second and third films to construct a cruel, self-contained universe around the crazy-ass story.
So here, briefly, are three things Saw V -- which sees the franchise's production designer David Hackl take over directing duties from Bousman -- could do to avoid the pitfalls of its immediate predecessor and restore my faith in the series.