Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Second Game, Second Turn: SAW II (2005)
starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Beverley Mitchell and Franky G
After the financial success of SAW, a sequel was quickly green-lit despite James Wan not being present back to direct. Instead, the job landed on Darren Lynn Bousman, someone I would like to call a splatter genius for his rock splatter musical REPO! The Genetic Opera!
Now, the job of doing a sequel to something as clever and original as SAW is chancy; repeat what the original already done might end up dull while trying another approach might set off criticisms. Thus, warping the mythos into something easier to understand as the killer's already identified may not be the sharpest choice, but as a big rule of sequels to outdo the original (which, by far, only a few handfuls had done that, and when I said handfuls I meant only one: 28 Weeks Later), it's one kind of chance these people are willing to wager on.
To be fair, the plot is more elaborate as a thriller; instead of focusing on a puzzling predicament, SAW II furnished a more slasher-like storyline, where in eight captives must find the antidotes for the nerve agent they're breathing through elaborate traps in order to live long enough until the rigged doors open. Of course, knowing Jigsaw, these traps are often deadly and the pressure of dying from the gas eventually sets some folks to start killing the others.
All the while, we get to know who the killer is: a cancer weakened engineer by the name of John Kramer. What is interesting about this is that despite being the mastermind for this set-piece, John spends the entire time being held in place and being intimidated by Detective Eric Matthews while people continues to get hurt or die. At that, a good portions was concentrated on John became Jigsaw as well as his reasons for kidnapping Eric's son Daniel, who is one of this game's participants.
So far, the torture porn nature of the latter films is still absent here, save the truly cringing "Needle Room" scene where a player is tossed into a pile of discarded syringes to find a bottle of antidote tossed in. (A nod to Suspiria's own razor wire room) Aforementioned, the film took more of a slasher film structure with instead of being chased by a killer with a handheld weapon, the traps are the killers and there's at least one for each victim. The traps aren't anything as messy or as torturous as does from the latter films, relying more on quick-play fatalities such as shootings and burnings. In fact, I see at least one or two nods to slasher/giallo flicks here, such as the peephole shooting being a clever wink in the eye to Dario's crazy masterpiece Opera.
SAW II is actually a fair entry; while it lost a few key notes that made its parent film a success, it's reliance on a survival style of horror provided enough guts and gore to keep any horror fan happy. While this film actually do have a mystery in it, it is not as weighty and plot reliant as the first SAW. That being said, it's also stale by comparison and can be easily dismissed as more of your basic bodycount flick than anything of a mystery driven plot.
Still. it had the gritty look and artistic editing of the first and though the cast still needed a little work, they are not anywhere near bad. And, like a honored tradition, the film ends with a shocking twist that leaves everything to an open end that flows fluidly to a sequel, the first since SAW's partially open-ended conclusion. Let's face it, the nature of SAW's ending never really looked as if it's gonna need a sequel; the whole franchise-friendly endings starts here.
And so starts a series of unfortunate events that leads one sequel to another, SAW II's decent take on a survival thriller marks the franchise creative take. Though, whether this stroke continues or not is, uh... uncertain.
1 male gets a nailed death mask clamped over his head
1 male shot in the eye by a rigged revolver
1 male burned alive in furnace Trap
1 male gets a nailed baseball bat to the head
1 female succumbs to nerve agent
1 female had her wrists cut in hand trap, bled to death
1 male had his neck slashed with hacksaw