Welcome back for a the second entry in SAW-TOBER with my least favorite of the entire franchise: SAW II. Now, by “least favorite” I don’t mean it is a bad movie, but rather that I have seen it far too many times. Hell, when late night cable plays a SAW film around Halloween, it tends to be this one. Like most sequels, the writers/creators feel that they have to “up the ante” in order to feel/stay relevant, and does the gore step up in this one – at least, in contrast to the first film. We also get more victims this time around – eight instead of two – and the setting is in what appears to be an abandoned house.. Will this game be more fun than the first? Let’s find out, and dive head first into the needle pit that is SAW II.
Right off the top, you can expect Jigsaw, the serial killer who tormented Doctor Gordon [and Adam] to be back in full swing in SAW II, armed with trickier traps and games for everyone. As Jigsaw himself even tells the audience, “Oh yes, there will be blood.” However, that “audience” isn’t just us – the movie goer – but is also made up of police detectives who have captured him and have him for questioning. That’s right – Jigsaw, or – as we learn from this film [his real name] – John is now in custody within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie’s opening. [wait, what?] Let’s get one thing straight, since the Jigsaw’s secret identity was revealed at the end of the first film, this sequel doesn’t attempt to play dumb with that, we get reminded that this older man is the one behind these “games.” [and thus becomes relevant for the remainder of the franchise] We also get this opportunity to put the killer front and center camera with some some spectacular scenes between Jigsaw and Detective Eric Mason that for some, could very well rival the conversations in Silence Of The Lambs between criminal and cop. Mason, it turns out, may very well be a new target of Jigsaw’s game – a game of life and death the detective gets to watch live on video monitors as Jigsaw’s victims, including the detective’s son Daniel, struggle for survival.
Like I mentioned above, this time around, the setting is different than the first film. Instead of just two people in a bathroom, we now have half a dozen people in a house where they are breathing in a toxic gas that will kill them in two hours. The “players” are a wide spread variety of people, including the aforementioned Daniel and Amanda, a woman who has been “tested” by Jigsaw before. The game this time is simple: find antidotes to the toxin and work together to find a way out. It’s nothing special, and I’m sure other movies have done this before [I’m looking at you, Cube!] but it’s SAW so I’m not overly surprised at this plot.
In this house, each room contains a puzzle intended for a specific “player” of Jigsaw’s grand scheme, complete with a classic cassette tape that explains for whom and why each trap exists. The tape also explains that character’s particular “crime” [why Jigsaw felt that particular person needed to be tested] which I thought was a great way for the viewer to get more engrossed in the victims, telling us each character’s flaws without going into tons of exposition. However, there is one major problem I have with this movie: the convenience of there being no puzzle rooms for characters who end up being killed off before finding their room – meaning, Jigsaw is either the best fortune-teller ever, able to predict which characters will die, [and when] or it means the writers got sloppy and put a few characters in with their only purpose being to serve as “red shirts.” I think it would have been far more interesting for the brute of the group, Xavier – this guy for people bad with names – to have killed one member of the group, only to find that character’s trap and not know how to deal with it..
Speaking of, I should probably also mention the traps that come along in the film. In SAW II, they’ve been created by Jigsaw, a mentally disturbed serial killer. When I first saw the movie, the very idea and concept for some of these traps are can be seen as sickening and more then one made me wince just at the thought of what was going to happen, and then it finally appeared on screen to make me cringe. Yeah, at first, I was not a fan. [can you say ‘needle pit?’] The traps as a whole though are smart and cunning, they’re willing to make you act first and think later [like the image above] only to be left to bleed and die. It really shows the kind of people these characters are, and for that – I’ll give them the benefit.
As with most horror movies these days, SAW II does have that one disappointing aspect, the same issue I had with the first SAW film: the fast-paced and flashing editing style that ensues when the action kicks in. Seriously. Every time Jigsaw’s puzzles even prepare to go off, we see quick – and increasingly faster – strobe light like shots of the trap before, during, and after it “goes off.” Some of these shots are so fast I’m surprised there isn’t a warning for epileptics, that flashing [and blinding] lights are used. It does create an extremely tense atmosphere though, which I cannot argue. I always felt this type fast paced cut shows their mind racing at the speed of the shot. I will say though, if you can make it through the first five minutes of the movie, which is a eye-wrenching trap that references the first film, then you’ll be fine. But, if you’re having a panic attack by then, chances are, you won’t make it through the rest of the movie. It only gets more intense as it goes on.
Also like the typical horror movie, at least the ones that have come out since the early 2000s, there is a necessary surprise twist. That’s not really spoiling much since the concept of a twist was such a big element for the first SAW, and besides; these movies are over ten years old. Thankfully, the ending of SAW II is well done. It makes complete and total sense and, more importantly, doesn’t feel plastered on just to get a rise out of the audience. It’s the kind of plot that was clearly determined early in the writing process, therefore making it an essential part of the movie. That ending scene with Xavier will always make me grind my teeth.
With a stronger story, sicker and more disturbing traps, and better acting then the original, SAW II is one of those rare sequels that builds and even surpasses the foundation it was built on. Even though I consider this film to be my least favorite of the series, it’s still a solid addition to the SAW series, and while the movie does, yet again, leave things open for a potential sequel – or three – they got the SAW concept [and story] down by this sequel. There was really no need to delve further and possibly steer the franchise in the wrong direction..right? right?
JOIN ME TOMORROW WHEN I REVISIT AND REVIEW THE ENDING OF WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ENDING OF THIS SERIES: SAW III.
Now I turn to You – the reader. What were Your thoughts on SAW II ? Was it a better film than the first? Or are you waiting for a certain sequel to be reviewed – and if so, which one? Let me know in a comment below, and if you enjoyed this review, and are looking for more, go and follow me over on my Facebook page! [we’re at over 150+ likes – let’s get to 200!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been “gone live” online; and I also share links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog. So go follow over there too!
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