Review: SAW II (2005) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 1 November 2010

Review: SAW II (2005)


One would easily figured that in a typical of horror film franchise, once the original works out its ingenious formula very well, all filmmakers need to do is to duplicate the same thing again, making them bigger and gorier that they guaranteed a sequel will cash in easy box-office draw -- but as you know, most of them tends to fall apart. Which is why it's almost led me to believe that SAW II would probably falls to the similar victim. For one thing, the sequel is rushed into production way too fast because the original indie-hit SAW was only released exactly a year ago. But surprisingly, SAW II is a kind of rare sequel that manages to improve upon its successful predecessor and takes the wicked formula into a whole new game of twisted macabre of life-and-death situations.

The opening scene is already a grisly knockout: Michael (Noam Jenkins), a police informant, finds himself waking up in an empty room with his head stuck in a venus flytrap contraption like two halves of a spiked, spring-loaded walnut locked around his neck. On a closed-circuit TV, a puppet-man explains the rule of the game: In about sixty seconds the walnut will snap shut and smashed Michael's skull unless he can unlock the contraption. But the key happens to be surgically implanted behind his right eye and in order to survive, he has no choice but to cut his own eyeball out to reach for the key, where the tormentor has provided a scalpel and a mirror before it's too late. Of course, one should already assume that Michael's a dead man. Enter burned-out detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who had enough with his troubled son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen) and they don't get along very well. Cut to the scene where a serial-killer expert Kerry (Dina Meyer, reprising her role from the original) calls upon Matthews to the crime scene where Michael's body was found in a room. Kerry knows the very moment she sees the irregular patch of skin missing from the victim's shoulder, and it matches exactly the work of the notorious Jigsaw, the moralizing sadistic tormentor who turned torture into a sick game in the original. And this time, Jigsaw's latest target is Michael's contact on the police force -- Eric Matthews. Matthews is later taking the bait and tracks Jigsaw to his hideout in an abandoned steel factory called Wilson Steel. Matthews, Kerry and a whole bunch of SWAT teams burst into the factory and found a wheelchair-bound cancer patient, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) sitting there. Though Jigsaw is apprehended, it's not over yet as he has already devised an especially evil puzzle for Matthews to solve: On a series of TV monitors, Matthews can see his son, Daniel and seven other strangers trapped inside a building at an undisclosed location, where they're slowly being poisoned by a nerve agent leaked through the building's vents clogged inside their bodies. And they'll be all dead in exactly two hours' time. Their only hope to survive is to play along Jigsaw's deadly games, where a tape recording offers each of them important clues about how they can save themselves but the doors are booby-trapped and the rooms filled with sick games they are forced to participate. It's race against time as Matthews must sort out the problem against Jigsaw before they're all dead.

For one, the sequel owes greatly to the more inventive CUBE (1998) and like the original, it remains indebted to Dario Argento's macabre style. Still, SAW II succeed admirably as a no-holds-barred horror film that is definitely not for the weak stomachs. The sequel offers the same extreme gore and hardcore violence, while not to mention a couple of inventive torture-set made horrifyingly imaginable inside the writers's sick mind. And this time, original director James Wan only returned as one of the executive producers while landed newcomer Darren Lynn Bousman to direct and co-write as well. Like Wan, Darren knows his way how to deliver a series of reasonably clever and horrific set pieces.

What really improves here is the film has polished its previous mistake and make things all the more engaging. The characters are further better-acted and each of them are reasonably credible. Among them is Donnie Wahlberg, who is compelling as a stressed-out detective so depressed to get his son back. Shawnee Smith, who plays a brief victim part in the original, strongly reprising her role as Amanda and her character is given a larger scope while Tobin Bell makes a creepy appearance as Jigsaw, a calm and collected demeanor that he wouldn't panic a bit even though he's already captured by the police. In this sequel we also learns more about Jigsaw how come he's so hell-bent on torturing his victims, thus delving the film a deeper subtext of his gruesome wrongdoings.

Still, it's not without a few share of problems: SAW II retains the same annoying visual distraction of the frantic MTV-ish cut and flashy editing that should have been downplayed already, while given the CUBE-like gimmick, the filmmakers doesn't seem to make use of its many individual trap situations in an elaborate manner.

Then again, director Darren Lynn Bousman seals his sequel with another clever twist of fate that builds up in a wicked conclusion where everything happens is eventually comes into full circle that related with the original SAW, which of course leads to an inevitable SAW III.

Oh, I can't wait for the next one.

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