Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saw II

When the first Saw was released I wasn't all that impressed with it at first, but it eventually grew on me. Naturally I was interested in seeing the inevitable sequel, and now here we are with Saw II.

The plot revolves around Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who is going through a divorce and is having troubles with his hooligan son Daniel (Erik Knudsen). When Daniel goes missing he fears the worst. He was right. His son has been kidnapped by the serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), and along with a group of strangers he is locked inside an old rickety house and has been poisoned. If he and the strangers don't find the antidotes for the poison that have been hidden around the house they will die within 2 hours. The detective tracks down Jigsaw and confronts him over the life of his son, but the game only begins there.
I couldn't figure out what it was about this film that bugged me as I watched it, and after seeing it again on video it finally struck me that gone is the idea of Jigsaw using these elaborate games to teach people the meaning of life. This time he's trying to get even with Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg). Well, he's not...


... his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith), a game survivor from the first film, wants revenge for Matthews framing her on drug charges. Her and Jigsaw use a bunch of ex-cons, who to them are expendable, in their plan. So all these people they've locked up in this house and have poisoned are innocent pawns who are being killed for the sole reason of revenge. Sure all these ex-cons were framed by Matthews as well, and his son is trapped with these ex-cons giving him motivation to catch Jigsaw and free the prisoners before they discover who his father is, but so is Amanda and that makes no sense to me. Why would she lock herself up with these people, one of whom is extremely unstable and violent, if she's in on it?

The others are mostly there for a cool death scene or two, but either the MPAA really got harsh on the violence quotient or the director just didn't want it to be too nasty since most of the deaths occur off-screen or are just a lame offing (Beverly Mitchell's death especially). I was disappointed that we didn't get more creativity in that department. However, what is extremely impressive is, if you pay attention, each of the traps the characters need to participate in have an easy solution that they are too blind to see. The furnace has a small window in the back where the syringes are kept. All someone had to do was bust through that window and grab them instead of crawling through it and getting baked. The wrist lock box had a key in the back that would have opened it had the person not rushed in and thrust their hands into the blades. It kept me interested as I watched a lot of the inanity go down.
Even though this film's twist ending is pretty cool, the acting is decidedly better and the pacing is more even, it's still way too brightly lit to create any type of mood, the editing is headache inducing and the film is basically a goreless affair.

Tobin Bell as Jigsaw owns this movie. His scenes where he faces off with Donnie Wahlberg a la Silence of the Lambs are the highlight of the flick. We get some decent insight into Jigsaw's past and why he does what he does. It's just that the rest of the film is kind of sloppy and it's totally obvious that the Saw elements were added into a previously unrelated script.

A quick cash grab to get a new movie out there within a year of the original, Saw II is not that entertaining of a horror thriller, and definitely not deserving of the "Torture Porn" branding it has received. It feels thrown together and rushed to meet a deadline. But still, I'll see the sequel they set up here.

 2 out of 5

*written 10/26/06

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