The huge success of the first movie saw a sequel arrive only a year later. The fandom couldn’t get enough Saw, it seemed as this follow-up would also prove to be very successful, pretty much confirming that we had a horror franchise on our hands. For better or for worse. You can read our review of the first film here.
For many this is where the ride started to get rocky but is Saw II really as bad as many would have you believe? The short answer is no but the long answer requires more analysis.
Directed and co-written by Darren Lynn Bousman with series creator Leigh Whannell. Saw II is bigger in ever way, the most obvious being the size of the cast. Here we have Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Beverley Mitchell, Dina Meyer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Erik Knudsen, Shawnee Smith, and Tobin Bell.
So any actors, so many characters…far too many characters resulting in many left by the wayside as the story plods along.
The story surrounds Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who is drawn into Jigsaw’s game when the police capture him. Revealed to be an elderly man named John Kramer who is dying of cancer, Jigsaw foresaw his capture and a new game has started. One that involves Detective Matthew’s son, Daniel.
The teen is locked in a house at an unknown location with a random group of people. A nerve agent is slowly filling the house and after two hours all will be dead unless they can find the antidotes hidden around. Normally as part of another painful and debilitating trap.
All of this is shown to Detective Matthews and the police through video as Jigsaw has monitors in the house. Unwilling to tell the furious father just where his son is, Jigsaw forces him to play along with his game if he has any hope of seeing his son again.
Upping the ante in almost every way, Saw II is a much more vicious and brutal encounter. Gone is the simplicity of the original movie and in its place is a full-on torture-porn horror where the pain suffered to victims has no meaning no matter how many recordings Jigsaw leaves to explain his torture devices. It’s senseless violence dressed up as something more meaningful. Unlikable characters suffering while the footage is sped up super-fast.
It’s a style that is a staple of the series and something that becomes more and more jarring the more it is done. Which is a lot in this film. If that wasn’t enough to make Saw II visual vomit, the grotty colour scheme just makes it even worse.
Perhaps the worst thing about Saw II though is just how mean-spirited it is. A list of characters that are mostly horrible people, a constant sense of underlying nastiness in every scene and the lines between good guys and bad guys blurred far too much. Even the one person we should be cheering on, Detective Matthews, has skeletons in his closet.
Does that make it more real? Well, no because Saw II doesn’t have that same sense of realism. The grittiness seems studio made rather then young film-makers using what the budget would allow.
However, for all its negatives it’s not a terrible movie. It moves along at a good pace and never feels boring. Tobin Bell and Donnie Whalberg are both great in their respective roles and together they really chew the scenery. The twist at the end, another Saw series staple, isn’t as surprising as the original but it is done well and ties into the original movie in gleeful fashion.
It also sets up the next film in the franchise. Where personally, the wheels really start to come off the train.