Saw II
Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith
Directed By:
Darren Lynn Bausman

The original Saw was a bit of a surprise to many. It was a low-budget horror/thriller that pitted the average man against a tough decision to save his life. With a small budget and short window of time to film the piece, the movie did exceptionally well, fostering a quick-fix sequel within a year of the original's release. With all the twists and methods already out for display in the original feature, would the sequel provide any new thrills?

The story begins with an opening gambit straight out of the first film, leading us into the broken life of the main character, Detective Eric Matthews, a cop who's stuck behind a mountain of paperwork. When the Jigsaw killer calls him out via message at one of his crimescenes, the cop, played by Donnie Walhberg, manages to conveniently find Jigsaw's hideout. But, before the killer can be carted away, it's revealed that he, in fact, has a group of people trapped in a house, including the police officer's son. As expected, the house has it's own series of boobytraps and an even more insidious trap - it's pumped full of poisonous gas that will kill the inhabitants in two hours unless they find or earn the antidote.

As the story progresses, we are drawn into why these people are together and we find out that no real reward is within the house. Instead, most of the prisoners spend their time arguing with each other. The fact that most of these people are ex-cons is quite evident in how violently they act to one another, as if this were some attempt to determine an alpha male in a pack of animals. Of course, there are some traps and tricks throughout the house, but this time around, most seem pretty obvious and I would have say that only the most moronic person would actually fall for them.

Fortunately, to balance out the blunt approach to the trapped house, we're given an intense conversation between John, the man known as Jigsaw, and the Eric. In this we see the dark philosophies of a dying man who finds nothing but people wasting their lives and wishes to give them appreciation for their lives. On the other hand, we have a man whose life has fallen apart and the only thing he can think of is the life of his son.

From a production standpoint, Saw II shows that it definitely got better funding, though I can't say that it benefited from a longer filming schedule. The cinematography is disorienting with lots of roaming shots and a strong use of colors to help evoke certain emotions within the scheme of the story. The house is filled with a certain yellowish/greenish grime to it, punctuating the poisonous situation at hand. Acting is better this time around, though there are times where the characters don't go any further than their stereotypes allow. In fact, most of the prisoners are just one-dimensional means to an end and when they die off, the viewer feels little to no connection. I would have to say that John is easily the most interesting character, while Donnie works as a nice balance to his perpetual calm.

Honestly, I found Saw II a pale attempt at a sequel that doesn't feel as methodical or diabolical as the first. There wasn't anything in the story that wasn't obvious and predictable and even the twists weren't really all that surprising. If you liked the original movie and wanted to get some closure on the events of the first Saw, then I'd suggest given the sequel a try. If you didn't care for the first, than skip this one as it isn't really any better.

- - Vane

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