Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith
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.