Saw II

Movie Review #903

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Nationwide release on October 28, 2005. Horror/Mystery. This film is rated R for grisly violence and gore, terror, language and drug content. Runs 93 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by: Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman. Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Erik Knudsen, and Franky G.

“SAW II” IS ANOTHER THRILLING NOIR/HORROR MOVIE, DESPITE ITS FLAWS.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

“Saw II” kicks off with a man waking up in a dark room, his head caught in a device that has been nicknamed a “Venus flytrap” by its maker. We all know who the maker is: John Kramer, or “Jigsaw” (Tobin Bell). He tells his victim that if he doesn’t find the key to unlock the trap within a minute, it’ll close on him like an iron maiden. The scene plays out almost shot for shot like the “reverse bear trap” scene in the first “Saw”. Except this time, the victim fails.

But if we’re looking for the scene that’s as great as the “reverse bear trap” scene, it’s not the one that imitates it. Director Darren Lynn Bousman really heightens the tension in a “needles pit trap” scene. Truly the only thing worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack, can be searching frantically for a key somewhere in a pit of needles, all loaded with some sort of drug. Focus on the word frantically. These characters only have one minute to do so. The seeming impossibility of such a task is successfully, thrillingly attained.

The most major compliment I have for “Saw II” is for its editing. I’ll say it: it’s clever. Director Darren Lynn Bousman really has a creative eye for this sequel. His scene-to-scene transitions are as witty as South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s, while his rapid fire mixing and matching of shots mimics James Wan’s style in the first film.

The story hasn’t yet fallen flat. It’s taken a different path, though. In “Saw II”, we find a cop who has been enjoying every moment that he doesn’t have to spend with his son…until his son is locked in a house with several strangers and countless deadly traps. A deadly nerve agent is permeating the house and will kill him and the others within three hours, but as he has been asleep for an hour of this time, he only has two hours to escape. Doing so requires finding a certain code that will unlock a safe, in which he will find an antidote, if he’s lucky enough to make it that far.

“Saw II” is still a thrilling detective movie. It does anchor more on the gore and torture than the first movie did, and it gives a newfound perspective to its tale. It feels almost completely different from the first movie, save for the fact that the dialogue still sucks. It’s not as much fun, either, but consider how fun the original “Saw” was. This sequel is rather enjoyable, despite its flaws.

It’s also great to see Amanda back for a second movie. I keep mentioning the “reverse bear trap” scene, which happened to be the only scene to feature hear in the primary “Saw” movie. It was nonetheless the best remembered. That Amanda is back by popular demand gives the writers–a duo composed of returning writer Leigh Whannell and director Bousman himself–a chance to expand her character’s back story. Or, rather, to reveal more of it.

The best of “Saw II” comes at the very end. We’re welcomed to a haunted-house-horror climax with an exhilarating Silence of the Lambs vibe, and offered a great little twist in relation to events we saw in the first film. Then we move into a closing “Hello, Zepp” montage as awesome as the one in the first movie. But this is definitely not to say that this sequel as a whole is as good as its predecessor.

Look for my “Saw III” review next Monday.

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