Saw II

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (2005)
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The second Saw movie in a row to not suck – a streak that would go unbroken until – well, the next one. Saw II moves from its toilet beginnings to a really big house, where Jigsaw has gathered his victims to play some games (not Guitar Hero), bicker and wallop one another with nail-fettered baseball bats. On the case is detective Not-Marky Wahlberg, whose son is amongst the captives in Jigsaw's house of fun. Jigsaw is captured quite early on in the movie, but remains in control throughout, since he's one smart cookie cancer patient. The emphasis is more on action and big set-piece gore in this sequel, as opposed to the original's more subtle sense of menace and horror.

Yuk it up. Yes, I used the word 'subtle' in relation to a Saw movie.
And yes again, I know this screengrab isn't from Saw II

I actually managed to detect the twist this time around, although that doesn't really detract from the ending and the cruelty of one character's fate. SPOILER: poor Not-Marky. His suffering wouldn't end until either Saw IV, V or VI. I forget which one had the ice-blocks in it. That said, Tobin Bell's Jigsaw is given a much bigger role this time, which is a mistake depending on one's perspective and how likeable you find the character. I know you're not supposed to like horror villains, but personally, I was rooting for Not-Marky to kill him with that beating. Sadly not, and the whole thing serves only as inspiration for another big Jigsaw lecture. Yawn. There's a reason Jason and Leatherface keep their mouths shut. No-one gives a fuck, Jigsaw. Only Freddy can carry of the talky killer bit - and that's only because he says "bitch" a lot.

Donnie Wahlberg: not Mark(y)

Also given a bigger role but with marginally more success is Shawnee Smith as Amanda, one of Jigsaw's earlier victims. As we all know, Amanda would later be revealed as Jigsaw's willing apprentice and a bit of a loon, but we're here led to believe that she's stuck amongst the kidnapped. For her trouble, she ends up lobbed in a pit full of skanky old needles and told to look for a key. It's the nastiest moment in Saw II and works a lot better than some of the more elaborate traps. Of all the movies, it's this second instalment that I hate the least. The original movie might be technically better, but this sequel has an energy and pizazz that I kinda dig despite the occasional shoddiness.

The twist might be mildly guessable, but it works. The franchise saw fit to sort-of reuse it in the fifth, sixth or whatever movie because why not and screenwriting is hard. If they'd stopped now, all would have been well and good. But Jigsaw lives to grumble another day and Donnie Wahlberg ends up locked in a toilet. Next up comes some brain surgery, the waste of Shawnee Smith's potential and the exact point where the series should have ended for good.

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