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SAW II, 2005
Movie Reviews!

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SAW II,  MOVIE POSTERSAW II, 2009
Movie Reviews

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Erik Knudsen, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Emmanuelle Vaugier
Review by Andrew Kosarko


SYNOPSIS:

Jigsaw is back for more gory fun in SAW II, but this time he comes out from behind the mask to terrorize a troubled cop face-to-face. Tobin Bell reprises his brief role as Jigsaw in the first film with a major starring turn in the sequel. Dying of cancer, Jigsaw lets himself get caught, only to show Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) that his son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen), has been taken hostage with seven other people, all of whom have been placed in a house of horrors with only the slimmest chance of escaping with their lives. Jigsaw promises Matthews that Daniel will live only if the cop follows the rules of the game, but time is running out, as the captives' bodies have been poisoned with a toxin that will soon destroy them. Meanwhile, in the dank, mysterious, booby-trapped house, the ever-more-desperate group of people (including Shawnee Smith, who is back as Amanda, the lone survivor of SAW) furiously try to find their connection to each other and a way out, but blood and violence lie in their path.

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REVIEW:

Hate on this franchise if you want, I actually really enjoy the second film. Yes, in some ways it repeats the a formula from the first film – with people locked in a specific place forced to expose their characterization and survive. Oddly enough, this film is very intriguing because after the end of the first film, it takes the logical direction that most films don’t take, and that should be applauded. In this go around we get to sit face to face with Jigsaw himself and have a conversation with him. How interesting is that? In my opinion, that’s pretty groundbreaking. Usually, exposing a killers motivations hurts the creepiness factor of them. This time? No. It doesn’t. It’s scarier to know Jigsaw. Why? Because he’s human first of all. But secondly, while his “games” are sick and horrifying, they get inside your mind. Jigsaw is not physically intimidating. It’s his mind that scares the hell out of us. Now that the twist of the first SAW is exposed we can now let him scare us outright instead of secretly. To me, that’s brilliant.

The Story: The characters, first of all, are somewhat stereotypical, yes. However, put into this kind of situation – whether it be sitting in front of a serial murder and forced into mind games with him or stuck in a house with death traps awaiting every turn, they’re very intriguing. While they are clichés, they are taken to places we’ve never seen before and thus, we’re enraptured in the environment. The parallel (or what we’re lead to believe is) action makes for interesting storytelling format contrasted to last time. Now we have flash backs coming out of two storylines, which gives us a richer story and also fairly distracts us from the obvious clues that will lead to the twist ending of the film. All in all, it’s well crafted and while the characterization is not what it was in the first film, the plot is much better. But also – keep in mind, they most definitely had a bigger budget to play with this go around.

Acting: Tobin Bell really steals the show. We never got a chance to get to know him as a “person” opposed to a mysterious killer in the first film. This time, however, we get a 1 on 1 interview with him. He shines. Donnie Wahlburg also does a good job as a hot headed cop. Type casted or not, this is a horror film and we’re lucky we got someone who knows a role like this inside and out and can give us a little more than just “trying.” It works and plays well against Bell’s icy demeanor. It’s also obvious that there may have been rehearsals this go around, or at least the actors were well more aware of their characters before getting in front of the camera because I’d say the leads definitely do a better job as a whole than the leads of the last film.

Directing: Darren Lynn Bousman is a director I’ve never heard of. Nor have I known anything he’s done prior or post the Saw II (III and IV). But he seems like he has a solid grasp on the filmmaking medium and my hats off to him for being able to step into this franchise and make an entertaining sequel to an original film and maintain a good bit of it’s integrity.

Cinematography: This go around it’s much more intentioned to look the way it does – as opposed to color correction doing most of the work. The shot design is good, but the lighting bothers me at times. Some stuff comes out a little too bright and well lit. In the first film there was more shadow, and I dug that.

Production Design: Just as metal-y and rusty as the original, if not more so. The only reason it gets hurt is because it’s well lit, as said above. It exposes some of the amateur aspects of it at times and kind of hurts the movie…but only a little.

Editing: Thank God the horrible editing of SAW is pretty much gone. Yes it occurs at points as a stylistic continuity point, but it’s not harped on or used to cut corners the way it was in the first film.

Score: As I said in the first SAW review, is there a score here? Aside from the “pay attention we’re explaining the twist right now” music, it’s really just an undertone to the extreme elements taking place on film and helps to heighten the moments. It could be worse….it could be midi.

Special Effects: Top notch. Again, limited if any CGI is used so most of everything that happens is practical old school gory production design. Just the way, ah-huh, ah-huh, I like it.

In closing: While I can admit this is not better than the first film, I enjoy it better. There’s something about Tobin Bell’s performance and characterization that really makes me love this film. Yes, it has all the required gore and scare moments and a plot twist and all that. But it’s an entertaining second installment that at the very least lives up to the first one. If you enjoyed the first film, I promise this film will be at very least make for a good one time viewing.

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