a critiQal film review Saw II (2005)

Plot: While investigating the bloody aftermath of a grizzly murder, Detective Eric Mason (Wahlberg) has the feeling it is the work of Jigsaw, the notorious killer who disappeared, leaving a trail of bodies - and parts - behind. And Mason is right.

846 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 13s)
  • ...thanks to the awful ending, the real victim of this sequel is the audience.

The original Saw (2004) ranked right up there with the best horror films of all time, easily competing with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser (1987) and The Exorcist (1973) as one of the scariest movies ever. Everything in the film fit in perfectly together, helping to create a new diabolical name in horror: Jigsaw (and to a lesser extent, Lionsgate). So, when I found out that Saw II was in the works, I was eager to see it.

The previews just added to that, so when Saw II hit theaters Halloween weekend, we rushed to see it – although I was a bit more eager to see it than she was. But, with such a wildly original horror film like Saw (2004), could a rushed sequel be anything but a disappointment?

Donnie Wahlberg, notorious for being part of 80’s boy band New Kids on the Block, takes on his Saw II role with gusto. He does a great job throughout the whole film, putting fellow cop / ex-Starship Troopers (1997) Dina Meyer’s acting to shame in comparison. His every emotion is broadcast loud and clear to the audience, a must for the film, since half the film focuses on Jigsaw toying with him as his son plays Jigsaw’s game.

The other half of Saw II focuses on the new players in Jigsaw’s game – who don’t come out shining quite as bright, acting-wise. They do a good job of reacting to Jigsaw’s death traps, but when they try to expand on that and actually act, they tend to fall apart – even familiar faces like Beverly Mitchell (“7th Heaven” (TV)).

Shawnee Smith, who most will recognize as the girl who passed Jigsaw’s test in the first film, is back for Saw II, bringing a little familiarity to the scene that will pull viewers in right from the start.

Unfortunately, Saw II tends to split into two totally separate halves, one being Jigsaw and the cops, the other the game Jigsaw has set up. Whereas the game has all the interesting death traps, Jigsaw and the cops has the better acting.

For a horror film, pulling away from the action usually isn’t a good idea, and that proves true again in Saw II. The first film seemed to flawlessly flow from the men trapped in the room to what was going on outside, but it seems the filmmakers couldn’t get that same seamless transition right for this sequel. Rather than flowing together, the film seems to jerk the viewer back and forth, leaving the viewer a little annoyed by the whole process. While they do finally blend together in the end, these two parts remain so different from each other throughout that the viewer may be a little disappointed.

Aside from the irregular hops back and forth between each half, the plot of Saw II, thankfully, never strays from the Jigsaw pattern the viewer already knows, but at the same time doesn’t just replay the first film. Obviously, the filmmakers wanted to make this movie bigger, so this time around there’s 8 people playing the game, rather than just the 2 in the original film. Sadly, more doesn’t always equal better.

This bigger cast of characters lets Saw II use more death traps, although they aren’t bigger and better than the ones in the original film. Jigsaw’s real cunning traps seemed to have been mostly used up in the first film, filling this sequel with more hokey traps that are easily spotted miles away – and give little room for the characters to reverse their decision without help. The characters stupidly blunder their way through these traps, dying needlessly along the way.

Before, Jigsaw was always able to thrust people into a situation that seemingly focused on them using their minds to get out of the predicament (even though some were rigged so the characters had no chance of survival). This time around, the traps become secondary to the human element, which is always somewhat unpredictable – but which has been done so many times before that it’s old hat to horror fans.

Despite these flaws, Saw II manages to keep the audience glued to their seats pretty much from the beginning – until a surprise ending that ruins the film. If you want my advice, leave the theater 5 minutes before the end of the film, so you miss the final twist. It turns Saw II from a decent continuation of the original into just another slasher flick, using a method that has been so overdone in horror it’s now a cliche.

This finale, sadly, throws away anything Saw II has accomplished by that point, leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth – and disappointment that Hollywood’s movie machine has destroyed another good film.

Is the most anticipated horror sequel in years worth seeing in theaters? If not for the cliched ending, Saw II would have been worth the price of admission, despite it’s flaws – which makes it all the more disappointing that when you add in that ending, Saw II‘s audience becomes the real victim of the film.

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