Trivia The original poster for Saw II was withdrawn by the MPAA after they objected to its graphic image of two severed fingers which broke film advertising guidelines.
Emmanuelle Vaugier who plays Addison has just completed filming on House Of The Dead 2 with Eat My Brains favourite, Sid Haig (Saig!).
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Saw II (2005)
4th Nov 05
The Jigsaw Killer returns with his latest sick game. Eight people are trapped in a derelict house and have two hours to escape before the toxins in their bodies take hold. One of the potential victims is the son of the cop assigned to the killer’s case…
What is it with people talking during the movie? I don’t know about your local cinema but mine is getting increasingly worse for incessant chatter during the main feature. I don’t get it. I thought a late screening of Saw II (certificate 18 no less) on a Tuesday night would be safe from these serial disrupters, but boy was I mistaken. If I’d wanted a running commentary I’d have stayed home and watched a DVD. These people are idiots, they must not be tolerated. Yes, I do have a bee in my bonnet and it’s stinging me repeatedly.
Trying to focus amidst the background noise I couldn’t help wondering if there is to be a Saw III (and the large crowds both here and in the US suggest this is a distinct possibility) then perhaps the screenwriters might consider utilising talkative cinema-goers as the next victims of the Jigsaw Killer. Hey, it’s just a thought. Here in Saw II, our murderous cancer-sufferer (Tobin Bell) – also known more simply as John – has assembled another roomful of lowlifes, petty criminals and self-abusers to torture. Amongst these miscreants are young Daniel (Erik Knudsen), son of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) who is currently on Jigsaw’s trail, and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) who you may remember as the sole survivor of his reign of terror in the original Saw – she was the victim fitted with the death mask who needed to obtain the key that her cellmate had swallowed. These eight people share something in common, as they’ll soon discover.
Meanwhile Jigsaw has been leaving clues for Eric, which lead him and his team (headed by Starship Troopers actress Dina Meyer) to his current lair and control centre, littered with video monitors trained upon the aforementioned house. Having Eric capture Jigsaw early on is a wise move on the filmmakers’ part as we’ve already established his identity in the first film. The fun this time comes from watching his latest game set in motion. Deadly nerve gas is slowly being pumped into the house which will cause the eight hostages to die within two hours unless they can escape. There are syringes containing an antidote hidden around the rooms for each individual, but acquiring them is no easy task – it’s like a deadly edition of The Crystal Maze. Jigsaw is prepared to make a bargain with Eric however; if Eric does exactly what he says for the next two hours then he promises to return Daniel to him unharmed. And so the games begin.
For me, Saw was one of the most wickedly pleasurable cinematic experiences of last year. The film seemingly came from out of nowhere with its twisted plot and terrifying set-ups to become a huge hit with horror fans worldwide, and a sequel was all too inevitable. Gone is director James Wan, replaced by Darren Lynn Bousman, but original screenwriter Leigh Whannell (who also played Adam) remains as writer and executive producer on the sequel, rushed into production by Lions Gate Films and shot in a mere 25 days.
Without the element of surprise this time around, Whannell and Bousman have focussed their efforts on the intricacies of Jigsaw’s games, littering the film with clues that will be obvious to the audience on a second viewing. After the stunning denouement at the end of Saw, we’re expecting a few twists along the way and Saw II certainly delivers these – although I’d argue that one plot twist is obvious very early on if you’re the suspicious type.
The other element that has been amped up for the sequel is the nature of the killer’s instruments of torture. The film begins with a slightly different riff on that old favourite of his, the death mask, in an opening scene that had people around me wincing and screeching in disgust. A good start then! There are a couple of equally unpleasant and distasteful traps awaiting our eight inmates, but I’ll leave you to discover their delights for yourselves – suffice to say if you have any kind of phobia about sharp instruments or needles then this is most definitely not the movie for you.
Contrary perhaps to all expectations this is not an especially gory film however. The horror lies more in the mind of the audience; with each shocking scenario established it is often the viewer who is imagining the outcome in his / her head, rather than seeing it graphically displayed on screen, although that’s not to deny there’s enough of the red stuff liberally splashed across the ninety minute running time to satisfy most viewers. Bousman comes from the school of quick-cutting, flashy MTV style editing, so this also works to defuse the more horrific scenes rather than having a sustained shot which lingers on the action.
It’s all very well having a few cunning plot twists and some nasty deaths, but does the film hold together as a whole? Well, it’s okay but I didn’t find it nearly as engaging as its predecessor. The biggest problem with Saw II is its new cast of characters who are barely sketched and merely cyphers for the action. Eric the cop is supposed to be the leading man, someone we can sympathise with, but he’s an arrogant bully and it would come as no surprise to me if the whole audience were soon siding with Jigsaw rather than this pathetic little man. It’s also hard to feel for any of the people trapped in the house when they too are all a bunch of scumbags, and again they suffer from being such paper-thin characters that we ultimately don’t care about what happens to them. The fact that one of them, Xavier (Franky G), starts his own personal battle with the others simply exacerbates the situation. Only Jigsaw gets any kind of character development and it is somewhat of a relief when he’s on screen and we get to learn a bit about his background prior to the events in Saw.
One of the biggest criticisms of the first film was the rather wooden double-act of Whannell and Cary Elwes. With the casting of Donnie Wahlberg, the lesser-talented of the Wahlberg brothers (which is pretty hard after Mark’s abysmal performance in Four Brothers), the producers have done themselves no favours in the acting stakes, and the supporting actors are by and large equally poor. The one notable exception is Tobin Bell as Jigsaw, who actually gets a chance to embrace his role to the full this time, and rasps away with a gleeful menace which is a delight to watch. It’s also good to see Shawnee Smith return as Amanda, providing the only other link to the original movie, although I’ve always had a soft spot for her since she appeared in the 1988 remake of The Blob.
Overall then Saw II is a functional sequel and no more than that. The ‘eeuwch!’ factor is still present and the writers try hard to match the shocks of the original, but the uninspiring premise and characters dilute its impact. Sure, it’s an hour and a half of fun entertainment but it won’t haunt you in quite the same way that Saw did on first viewing. It has however given me one bright idea – maybe the cinemas could patent Jigsaw’s death masks and insist that all patrons wear these when watching the film. At the first sounds of chatter the traps would close and the auditorium would be silent once more, free from the unwanted comments of those inconsiderate audience members. You’ve got to admit, it would make a great deterrent!