With prices for cinema tickets now reaching ridiculous heights it’s not often I will treat myself to a new release unless it’s something I simply cannot wait for. Instead, I’m happy to content myself with a cheap DVD or a film on TV which may have slipped through my critical net and, believe me, there have been far too many. Whether the films featured here are recent or old I’ll still be providing my honest opinion on them and, with the benefit of hindsight in many cases, may offer a slightly different take to contemporary reviewers.
Saw II (2005)
I had the pleasure of seeing Saw at the cinema in 2004 having been told by two work colleagues at the time that it was worth a look and had a twist at the end that I wouldn’t predict. I accepted the challenge, failed to get the twist but loved the film. Since then I have avoided watching any other films in the series, the feedback from others not being the most positive and I didn’t want to taint the experience of the original. However, courtesy of my line manager I was given the box set of Saw 1-4 to tackle and decided it was time to be brave and see how good the sequels are.
Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw II sees the return of the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) whose latest headquarters are infiltrated by the police led by Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg). Detective Matthews finds himself caught in one of Jigsaw’s games when the police find TV screens monitoring a house where eight people, including Matthews’ son Daniel (Erik Knudsen) are trapped. Jigsaw informs Detective Matthews that he will see his son safe but only if the two are allowed to talk for a while. In the house the group of eight are given instructions from Jigsaw that the exit will open in 3 hours but poison gas is entering the house which will kill them in 2 hours unless they can obtain antidotes, the rewards for successfully completing Jigsaw’s cruel games which can be found in many of the rooms. The film veers between Detective Matthews and Jigsaw and the people trapped in the house as the time ticks away leaving us to wonder who will survive and what the masterful Jigsaw has got up his sleeve.
Saw II begins brutally with a police informant in the midst of one of Jigsaw’s games. He finds a contraption attached to his neck, akin to a Venus flytrap which Jigsaw insists will snap shut with the spikes causing instant death unless the victim can unlock the device with a key. As with all Jigsaw’s games nothing is straightforward and our victim realises the key has been placed behind one of his eyes and he will need to remove it in order to get the key and escape the game. Hesitation proves deadly as the device quickly closes on the victim’s head! This is just the first of the many games we are shown devised by Jigsaw. The gore in the film supersedes the original which although unpleasant in places still managed to leave some elements to the imagination. A violent film doesn’t alienate me if the plot is good but I often find suspense is much better than trying to be as gory as possible and that the implication of something horrible can be more effective than actually seeing it. Among the other games Jigsaw has prepared are retrieving antidotes from a furnace and from a pit filled with hypodermic needles! Nice.
I did find the plot to Saw II quite intriguing. Having enjoyed the way Jigsaw was one step ahead of everyone in the first film I didn’t believe for one minute that he had been caught unawares when the police gatecrash his home at the start. His victims are generally ones who are something of a disgrace to society and as the plot unfolds we learn that Detective Matthews is not opposed to corruption and that the group of people in the house, save Daniel, are all criminals framed and imprisoned by Matthews. A clue waits in the house that will explain to the group how they are all connected and that amongst them is the son of the Detective that wrongly sent them to prison. A further complication is the presence of Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) the only victim to ever survive one of Jigsaw’s games, as seen in the first film, but who now finds herself at his mercy once again. While Detective Matthews appeases Jigsaw by engaging him in conversation, the police desperately try to find the source of the live feed leading to the house and hope the eight trapped people are still alive when they have discovered their location.
Sadly, my fears about sequels in this series were realised as I did find some issues with Saw II. Though the plot was intriguing it couldn’t really match up to the excellence of the first film. The original Saw did have many characters in it but the focus was largely between Dr Gordon and Adam who developed as characters throughout. While Saw II has Detective Matthews and Jigsaw engaged in some in-depth conversations, there are simply too many characters in the house for such a short film to really get to grips with. They became mere numbers to me with only Daniel and Amanda being worth any focus. A smaller group would have been more engaging and I found myself wanting their numbers to be whittled down quickly so we could get to the inevitable twist at the end. Thankfully, this is worth waiting for but again it was always going to be nigh on impossible to top the original so I can’t really criticise on this point. Jigsaw’s games seemed designed to push the boundaries of goriness far beyond those of the first film but instead of being horrified by this I found myself longing for some of the simplicity found in the original.
Saw II falls short of the highs of the first film in the series despite a plot that is good at times. Too many characters hindered the storyline in the house but the twist at the end is worth what is a short wait. With too much focus on gore I think the ingredients that made the first film so good have sadly been lost here.
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