So, we continue the Saw reviews with Saw II. The first 'sequel' to the franchise establishing the majority of features prevalent in the future sequels. Jo and I watched this straight after having watched Saw on DVD so the comparison between the two was an inevitable dicussion - Jo preferring Saw II to its predecessor. I must admit, to some extent, I agree because the story is still strong, it still has a twist you never see coming and - what pushes it over the edge - you actually have half decent actors (more specifically they are half decent and in no way 'good' or Academy Award winning). Nevertheless, I initially saw this at the cinema (Who did I watch it with - I think it was Pete but I am sure he was back in Lampeter at this point) but, upon meeting up with my, at this point in time, one-year-long girlfriend Sarah we decided to watch a film the choice was as follows Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit or Saw II. The second watch for me or the first watch for Sarah. Note, Sarah hated Saw. Well, as the loving partner that I am, I convinced her to watch Saw II. My own testement that I was prepared to watch it again just so she could see it - it was that good. Again, Sarah hated Saw II and that was very nearly the end of our relationship then and there. In time I did watch Wallace and Gromit and now, in hindsight, I am glad it was Saw II I watched.
What I reckon ...
So, it is now an established franchise - and like any decent horror movie it has its opening death. A key stuck behind some dudes eye - this key is what will help him escape from the face crusher attached to his neck. (Note the limping character in the video that shows how the key was placed behind the eye ... is that the infamous Dr. Gordon ... still alive?). A brilliant opening that not only shows we are back in the same territory - but that the writers had plenty of left-over material from the first film to use in these sequels.
The next bit, we are introduced to - possibly the best character in the series - Det. Eric Matthews (New Kids on the Block, brother of Mark, Donnie Wahlberg). This is great because I actually knew who this actor was - too young or too non-American to know New Kids on the Block - I knew him from flawless HBO TV-series Band of Brothers so I was incredibly happy that a decent, credible actor was on board. It was a cliche role - a divorced man with a teenage child who hates him whereby their last words - "Well then go!" - would inevitaly haunt him. But then again, it somehow created this bigger, explansive universe. That, in fact, there was more to Saw then a horrible, dirty shower room. Matthews judged people just like Jigsaw, Matthews decided and created their fate by setting up their crimes - because he knew the truth - much like Jigsaw. So we have a fantastic duo, pitted against each other.
Not only that, but we don't even spend the entire film seeing the cop always one step behind Jigsaw. In the first act they are sitting opposite each other talking in a controlled environment (ultimately controlled by Jigsaw, but then again, swamped with squad cops...) The atmosphere is incredible. A twist you know has to come but you can't understand - how on earth will Jigsaw escape? To be honest - when we get to the end, there are enough 'finales' to cover all bases, so if you worked out one twist, there was always another that you didn't get - guaranteeing that fantastic i've-been-fooled finale.
Jo and I both felt that this film has so much great stuff going for it - Saw II is bigger nad breaks conventions. The soundtrack is more diverse and fitting - no plopping water sounds from the first one. The situation in the house is huge - with lots of traps and, to top it off, none of the people folow the rules. So instead of watching people follow the rules and 'escape' (Amanda in Saw) or people fail to follow the rules and, within seconds, we see die (any of the other victims in Saw) we actually see an entire group of people do every single thing wrong. Xavier - the big wrestler guy simply never listens to anyone - he argues, he throws Amanda in a pit of needles. He is the worst character yet. Even when one girl in the house dies by placing her hands into two boxes with sharp entrances - we know the trap isn't for her but she does it anyway. Everything is simply messed up. There may also have been loads of other traps in the house we never see too! An interesting possibilitiy - and maybe a gap that could be filled in a sequel.
Another fantastic facet to this sequel - which is specific to Darren Lynn Bousman - is some of the transitions between scenes. He decided in some cases to have sets set up next to each other so characters can walk between sets creating a surreal switch between scenes - at one point Matthews is on the phone in his apartment and then he walks through a door and he is in a crime scene. Its a very small addition - but it is so significant because it creates an element of fluidity to the film.
We also get the flashbacks - a feature of all the movies - whereby we see how Jigsaw found out about his cancer, how he tried to kill himself and how he decided to 'appreciate' life. You really feel sympathy for this psychopath - especially when you see how corrupt Matthews is. When Matthews kicks the crap out of Jigsaw who do you feel sorry for? The detective with the missing son or the psychopath with cancer being kicked like an animal? Tough choice.
We're introduced to Rigg - a tactical commander who wants Jigsaw dead. He has a clear outlook on justice and does not believe in Kerry's, lets try and understand him, methods. I think as we find out about accomplices and what-not, Kerry clearly had a point because she wanted to get to the root of the issue rather than just lock him up. Anyway, Matthews is stuck between the two of them and the pressure is on regarding his son who is locked in a house with lots of crimincals and Jigsaw traps.
Right, I seem to be just randomly making points so I shall bring it to a close. I am sure there is such a thing called Saw-overload. Saw II is a bloody good sequel, but like anything, if you didn't like the first one - chances are, this isn't going to be a brilliant watch. It seems to just establish itself more and be clearer on its tone. Its grimy, its dirty - its a world of hatred and destruction and people like Jigsaw is who is going to change it. The new apprentice - Amanda - though not powerful and sinister enough to take Jigsaws place, she was an interesting addition. Moreso for the next sequels as you have an interesting dynamic between Amanda and Jigsaw but, as she shuts the door stating "Game Over" in her feminine, pseudo-sinister way, it pales in comparison to Jigsaw at the end of Saw.
Then again, in my opinion - as Daniel falls out of the safe, literally safe and sound proving that if Det. Matthews just sat and talked to Jigsaw his son would be safe, you could not help but be a little amazed. True to his word, Jigsaw 'tested' the detective but - Matthews (the cliche flawed cop) completely failed. That twist alone tops all the others - Amanda's reveal, Xavier cutting his flesh for his number, the video-feed not live, etc. Really is brilliant - and it is that pay-off that makes me watch the next installment.