Saw II review by The Grim Ringler

Saw II

Its rare that, in a sequel, the filmmakers learn from their mistakes. In most cases they take what worked and amplify it, figuring that you better not mess with the formula lest you lessen the receipts. Credit some open ears and open eyes for the fact that Saw II is the same as the first, but better. But more importantly, without the awkward middle section.

The notorious Jigsaw, a man known for his sadistic and deadly games and someone who seems to have a grudge against this man, challenges a haggard detective riding desk duty. When the cop reluctantly studies the most recent victim, an informant the detective had used previous to the mans deceasement, he quickly discovers a clue that leads right to the secret home of Jigsaw. But what they find, after first finding a nasty trap awaiting them, is that Jigsaw has been waiting for them, his cancer quickly eating away at the man, and that Jigsaw may yet have tricks up his cloak. They find that Jigsaw has kidnapped several people and has deposited them into a fortified house where they must discover both the exit, and the antidote to a toxin that they have all breathed in. And the detective finally finds out how much of a grudge Jigsaw has against him, and must find a way to beat the dying man at his own game if he hopes to save the people trapped in the house, one of them more than the others, before they all die horribly.

Much nastier and with much more subtext to it, Saw II really amps it up in this well made sequel. The biggest downfall of the first film was misuse of actor Danny Glover in what was an utterly needless subplot that did little but to confuse things in what was an otherwise taut thriller. With a far bigger budget, cast, and more ambitious story, its obvious that the filmmakers saw that they had limited themselves before and wanted to break from that. This is still essentially a game psychological cat and mouse as the detective (the spotty Donnie Wahlberg) and Jigsaw try to outwit one another. And while this is a formula that has officially become tired if they decide to do a third film (as if they wont. If modern horror is known for one thing, its beating a franchise into the ground.). It works, the idea of two characters matching wits as time runs out and all that, but, really, its a lazy plot device that should have seen its last with this film in the Saw series. Lets hope at least. The acting, while not stellar, is serviceable and, in the case of Shawnee Smith is very good. She is the standout in the film and really goes all-in with her part, a carry-over from the first film. Its great too that a lot of things are revisited that were opened up in the first film characters and a couple other elements that I will leave you to discover for yourself. And for you horror nerds out there (as the reviewer raises his own hand gleefully), yes, its gruesome. There are not as many fun Jigsaw puzzles here, but there are some very curious and nasty moments.

The biggest gripe I have is the over-reliance on jump-cuts in the film. I realize that, at this juncture, its a stylistic decision in these films, but its a bit tired. Call me crazy but I miss slow, paced films that dont need to use flash-cuts, and jump-cuts to make you feel the tension of the film. Hell, if the film is made well then you wont need them. The audience will pick up on what is going on and either buy in, or not. The trouble with these cuts is that they are lazy, and make for lazy filmmaking. The other gripe is, as I said, the use of the gnarly detective hunting a killer device. Ok, we got itit can work, but its been done. With Jigsaw they have a very well crafted and articulate villain, but its become like a sort of version of horror chess where the hero is trying to outwit the villain. The twist here being that the hero is almost more monstrous than Jigsaw. Some of the characters are archetypes (or if you are less kind clichs or stereotypes), but they dont all add to the betterment of the film. Overall, there is a lot more to like than dislike though.

I would love, in my heart of hearts, if they left this franchise alone. At least for a while. Let some time pass, and get some new ideas and new blood in there. Thats the trouble too with modern horror. They are all in a rush to make half a dozen movies in half a dozen years, damn the quality. This is an interesting idea, with an interesting ending, and if they are that insistent in making more of these, then why not work on making good films and new films. Think of a new angle to take. A new way to tell this story. A lot of people hate this sub-genre in horror the killer on the loose movies but when done well, they are as valid as any of the vampire or weremummy films out there. Its just a shame that so many of these are made so poorly. So it goes. This is a very bleak, very nasty, very entertaining film. It wont re-invent the genre, nor will it ever be considered revolutionary, but if you were not a fan of the first but like the ideas behind it, consider this the film equivalent of a Mulligan in golf. You get the same great premise, but done much, much better this time around.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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