Saw II (2005) Lionsgate/Horror RT: 95 minutes Unrated Version (strong graphic violence and gore, terror, language, drug content) Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Screenplay: Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell Music: Charlie Clouser Cinematography: David A. Armstrong Release date: October 28, 2005 (US) Cast: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Erik Knudsen, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Beverly Mitchell, Timothy Burd, Dina Meyer, Lyriq Bent, Noam Jenkins, Tony Nappo. Box Office: $87 million (US)/$152.9 million (World)
At one point in Saw II, Jigsaw (Bell) says, “Oh yes, there will be blood.” This sequel fulfills that promise very nicely. Bet you never thought you’d hear the word “nice” associated with the Saw franchise, did you? Well, all niceties end here. Director Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera) ups the gore ante in Saw II which is cool. What’s even cooler is that it isn’t just a mere retread of the first movie. Co-writers Bousman and Leigh Whannell expand upon the original story by introducing an accomplice to the tests being administered by Jigsaw. Of course, we don’t know that going into Saw II and neither do his latest victims. Out of courtesy for those that haven’t seen this movie, I won’t name the person in this review.
But seriously, are there any horror fans or gorehounds out there that haven’t seen the Saw movies? Chances are if you’re reading this, you have seen some, if not all, of them. In which case, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Nevertheless, I’ll try to refrain from dropping any major plot spoilers.
Detective Eric Matthews (Wahlberg, Blue Bloods) tracks clues left at the scene of a gruesome killing to an abandoned factory where he and Detective Allison Kerry (Meyer, Starship Troopers) attempt to arrest Jigsaw, significantly weakened from his cancer. His latest game is already underway. Eight people, including Matthews’ estranged teenage son Daniel (Knudsen, Scream 4), have two hours to find their way out of an abandoned house before a deadly nerve gas slowly filling the house kills them all. He‘s also hidden vials throughout the house containing the antidote. The latest victims include Xavier (Franky G, The Italian Job), Jonas (Plummer, Speed), Laura (Mitchell, 7th Heaven), Addison (Vaugier, CSI: NY), Obi (Burd), Gus (Nappo, Land of the Dead) and previous victim Amanda (Smith). The eight strangers are connected by something involving previous brushes with the law. Jigsaw assures Matthews that his son be returned safely if he agrees to sit and talk with alone, no other police around. To quote a line from Return of the Jedi …. IT’S A TRAP! But isn’t everything in the Saw movies?
Now for the gore highlights of Saw II. A man is killed when a spike-filled mask snaps shut on his head, another man is shot through the head, someone gets hit in the head by a baseball bat with nails sticking out of it, somebody’s throat is slit with a hacksaw and a woman is thrown into a pit filled with syringes.
Saw II establishes Jigsaw (aka John Kramer) as the first horror movie boogeyman of the 20th century. By that, I mean one that has franchise potential like Jason and Freddy. As I explained in my review of the first movie, Jigsaw doesn’t actually kill any of his victims. Instead, he puts them in situations where they must make a choice. As it so happens, most of his victims don’t pass his test and die as a result. At the very least, there will be bloodshed. When you think about it, Jigsaw is more like Hannibal Lecter albeit a low-rent version. Saw II is slightly less intense than its predecessor, but that’s only because we now know who’s behind it all. It’s still an effective horror movie. Bell is great as Jigsaw. This will be the role for which he’s remembered. Wahlberg is good as the burnt-out cop on a mission to rescue his son from a very dangerous individual. Smith’s role in Saw II is expanded and it proves beneficial to the story. The whole supporting cast does a game job. It doesn’t even matter that their characters are one-dimensional at most. We don’t get a lot of background on this latest set of victims except for this one thing they have in common. Saw II is an effective horror movie. It’s set mostly in dark places and the tone is sufficiently disturbing. The situation reeks of urgency. None of the characters can be described as good guys, not even the victims. It’s not a pretty picture, but such is the nature of horror. As far as horror sequels go, Saw II is one of the better ones.