Get Rich Or Die Tryin' Aeon Flux Saw II Serpent's Kiss Chronicles of Narnia-Advance
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You just know in 5 or 6 years,
when the Saw franchise is out
of steam, we're gonna see a
Jigsaw Vs. Chucky

Saw II
Review written by: Alex Sandell

The Story

The Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) ups the ante in a much larger game involving a group of 8 people who are all somehow connected, and have all been exposed to a chemical that will cause them to bleed from every orifice and die a painful death within 2 hours, if not injected with the antidote.  When a detective (Donnie Wahlberg) about to bust Jigsaw discovers that his son is part of the group of people exposed to the toxin he realizes he's also playing a game, one that involves nothing more than keeping his cool under pressure and listening to the warped psychopath talk about the virtues of being alive.  The entire time, the clock is ticking. 

Gore Score

Choosing between a score of "Light Bruising," "Recently Deceased," "Badly Decomposed" and "Puke-Inducing," Saw II gets a rating of "Badly Decomposed."  It's a sick flick with an insatiable desire to keep its audience cringing over the many varied and painful ways it comes up with to kill those who don't follow the rules of the game.  

Would You Like Cheese With That?

Horror movies can be "Easy on the Cheese," "Regular Cheese," "Extra Cheesy" or "Instant Cheese Based Coronary."  The budget for Saw II is bigger, the acting is better and the plot holes aren't as glaring (although, when you sit back and think about the movie, you realize it has its fair share of plot holes) as they were in the first Saw.  All of this leads to a film that's "Easy on the Cheese." 

Drug Use 

With "Let Off With a Warning," "Pay a Small Fine," "Put on Probation" and "Go Directly to Jail" to choose from, Saw II gets "Let Off With a Warning."  A former heroin addict is thrown into a pile of syringes and reveals the tracks on her arms from past drug use, but other than that the movie is free of drugs.    

Sex and the Psycho

Horror flicks and sex go together like romantic comedies and crap.  A terror movie can be rated "Nun," "Curious Schoolboy," "Chick After 8 Beers" or "Paris Hilton."  Saw II is a "Nun."  There is no sex in the film.  No nudity.  This movie's all about violence and horror. 

So how is it?

Saw II can proudly join rank with the handful of sequels that are actually better than the original.  Most of the kinks found in the first are worked out in the second, leaving an entertaining film that should please nearly every fan of the original. That said, it does suffer from being a sequel.  After the twist in Saw, the audience is waiting for something unexpected to happen.  If they're paying attention, they'll have the flick figured out before the reveal. 

The mystery isn't nearly as far-fetched as the big one in Saw, which makes it much easier for viewers to solve (and swallow).  While the surprise ending in the original was a blast upon initial viewing, it opened up a can of plot holes and about a million unanswerable questions that made repeat viewings sort of a drag.  By keeping the bulk of its events within the realm of possibility, Saw II should hold up better than its predecessor.  

Saw II is a grisly film.  Director Darren Lynn Bousman keeps the movie looking gritty, resisting the temptation to create a sleek looking sequel (too bad his only sense of style is to emulate the style of the first).  Unlike so many weak second entries in horror franchises, Saw II stays close to its roots, doesn't turn into a horror comedy and keeps its killer mortal, rather than making him super-human (*cough* Jason Voorhees *cough*).  The movie is just as relentless as the original and equally compelling.

The most welcome change in Saw II was placing Jigsaw/John right out in front, giving him a genuine personality and interesting (if basic) background story.  He's a true flesh and blood character (one of the only in the film who isn't woefully underdeveloped), rather than a killer hiding in the shadows or only heard over mini-cassette players.  It's a bold direction to take the Saw franchise in and, somewhat surprisingly, it works.  This is thanks in large part to actor Tobin Bell's understated acting job as the creepy cancer patient with a taste for playing God.  It takes a convincing performance to make you forget what a monster Jigsaw really is and cause the audience to sympathize -- albeit briefly -- with this beast. 

There is plenty in this film that doesn't work (character development, predictable and unoriginal plot, etc.), but everything that needs to be there to make an adequate thrill-ride is firmly in place and running as flawlessly as one of the Jigsaw Killer's torture devices.  It's fast moving, suspenseful, morbid, grotesque, unrelenting and captivating from beginning to end.  It gets under your skin and doesn't flinch.  Is it a classic?  No.  But it does what it sets out to do, and for Halloween weekend, that's enough. 

My biggest problem with the movie -- outside of the predictability factor -- is its similarities to the underrated sci-fi/horror classic, Cube.  Certain elements of the plot are nearly identical (people wake up in strange place, enter various rooms, each with a unique way to die and possibly a chance for escape, one character is only in it for himself and will do anything to save his own hide, etc.).  Hopefully this is coincidence, rather than blatant intellectual thievery (Cube is the better movie, either way). 

As a lifelong fan of horror, I've watched one too many sequels permanently destroy a perfectly good franchise.  Saw II does the genre proud, and hopefully they can keep it up when they make the third (the movie leaves the door wide open for another, in somewhat cheesy fashion).  I also appreciated the nod to The Last House on the Left.  It's nice to see that some fans of horror learn the history of their favorite genre, rather than just keeping up with current events.  If they're able to forgive a few predictable twists and turns, Saw II is bound to give fans of the original a real buzz. 

Agree, disagree, wish you had better hair?  Email Alex!

This is the unrated, uncut
letterbox Saw. With two discs
packed full of extras, it's the kind
of DVD the horror genre needs
more of.

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