Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005
I appreciate the original Saw for drawing enough crowds to turn Lions Gate a very solid profit, but that’s about it. I think it was a worthless movie which showed absolutely zero promise for James Wan as a filmmaker and exposed him as nothing more than a gimicky screenwriter. If you ran down the routine checklist of what makes for a good movie, Saw would fail in every category, but perhaps its greatest offense is the hapless, jittery editing that plagues horror films these days that just cuts right through every nerve in the body. Not to mention the plot holes riddled throughout the one-note screenplay…
Suffice to say, I hate Saw. When Saw II started appearing on the radar, I immediately started to shout my woes and protest it as much as I could. Crap should never be rewarded in any capacity and I thus vowed to never see it. But here I am, 6 months later, bored and looking for a flick to watch simply so I can put some more content up here. Obviously I caved and put on Saw II.
And I gotta say, I want to hate it a lot more than I actually do. It isn’t that bad.
But before I throw out any praise for it, one must understand how despite Saw II‘s deceptive image as a slick and original genre entry, it is the cannibalization of countless films before it. The crux of the entire movie (a group of people kidnapped and placed in a maze full of puzzles and traps) is a very thinly veiled lifting of the entire Cube franchise and Jigsaw’s motivation/character is nothing more than a blatant rip-off of the brilliantly concieved character of John Doe. Plus, the film’s finale/revelation (though not nearly as moronic as its predecessor’s) has been done in countless other films (genre and non-genre alike) and with much better result.
Bousman is a vastly more capable filmmaker than James Wan, but he still couldn’t avoid the hyperactive stedicam or the jagged editing that absolutely killed the original for me. But here, the effects of those horrible traits are noticeably watered down. The characters are still just sacks of flesh biding their time until it is their turn in the script to bleed. The cop, Donnie Wahlberg this time around, is just as contrivied, cardboard and meaningless as Danny Glover was in the original, except that Glover was hilariously and needlessly intense. Wahlberg isn’t playing a cop, he’s playing a man who knows hes playing a cop in a bad movie.
So, if I’m consistently shitting on the movie, why did I not hate it as much as I was guranteed I would? The plot may be the bastard child of well established cult favorites, but it stays faithful to what it ripped off. Though you don’t actually care about any of the characters, it is occasionally a treat to see what rediculous thing the script is going to drudge up for them to do. All the traps seem forced (comeon, who would really throw a girl into a pit of syringes?) and overly thoughtout (just like in Mindhunters), and they certainly exist only for the sake of the viewer and not for the sake of the script’s ideology. But they are still occasionally fun to watch play out. Tobin Bell doesn’t give a landmark performance as Jigsaw, but he does nail the role with a skillful percision and is a delight to watch in many of his scenes.
The last 15 minutes were clearly painstakingly engineered (just like the marketing campaign of both films) for this new horror generation that not only expects, but demands a twist ending, but this time around the ending fits everything prior to it. I know because I’m a cynic that the ending isn’t as much of a conclusion to the story as it is a product in and of itself to be sold to consumers, but frankly it works. It results in a last reel that is the saving grace of the movie.
I’m hesitant to rate this movie as good, because it isn’t anything I’d ever go out of my way to watch again, but it is a perfectly watchable, albeit pre-digested, flick. Then again, I also dug Mindhunters (another, crappy source lifted by Saw II) enough to see at 3 or 4 times.
But its no Cube 2: Hypercube!