See Saw with Alex, Day 2: Saw II

Enter round two.

by | October 16, 2009 | Comments

Day Two: Saw II

Fear, I think, is one of the essential components of movie watching that almost
completely disappears as we grow older. When was the last time you sat down for
a movie truly afraid of what images it was going to show you? As a kid, I’d
wander the horror aisles of rental joints, filling my mind with the most
horrific images based on these sun-blanched VHS covers. Of course, one day you
man up and get the movies (or get your older brother to rent them) and watch
them and they’re nowhere near as bad as you imagined.

Having deliberately avoided movies broadly categorized as torture porn, I saw
the first Saw afraid. Fear heightens your senses, gets you involved in
the movie, and suspends your cynicism. I started watching Saw II with the
idea of maintaining this level of emotion, but it was clear from the opening
sequence that expending that much emotion would be unnecessary.

Saw II is more standard horror, with slicker production and bright, poppy
cinematography. It’s not the gut-wrencher its predecessor was, but it’s also
infinitely more enjoyable.

We’re introduced to Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), a detective working close
on the Jigsaw case. His team lucks out in finding Jigsaw in his lair, revealed
as a pathetic cancer-ridden patient named John Kramer (Tobin Bell). Of course,
the tables turn: eight people are revealed to be trapped in a house being slowly
pumped with lethal gas, with one of them being Matthews’s son. Then Jigsaw
proposes a game: Matthews has to talk to him for a bit and his son will appear
safe and sound.[rtimage]MapID=1152222&MapTypeID=2&photo=2&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Part of what made Saw so effective was its rough feel: there was no eye
candy and it lacked a concrete identifiable villain. Saw II plays more
into convention: there are hot chicks running around, the movie gives us two
villains (Jigsaw himself, and Xavier, one of the house victims who slowly goes
berserk) to root against (or root for, depending on your persuasion), and spends
nearly half its running time as a police procedural, giving us plenty of story
If I had seen Saw in 2004 and waited that whole year for Saw II, I
can see why this would be a kind of a disappointment. The traps aren’t as
inventive as in the original (they’re actually kinda amusing) and the dramatic
writing isn’t exactly top-caliber. But this movie was just compelling enough,
and “just enough” is perfectly adequate for a marathon. Watching these in rapid
succession, it feels like I’m watching a full DVD season of some really gross,
really disgusting TV show.

And I dug the final twist. Matthews, having gone off the rails, beats, tortures,
and drives Jigsaw to the house, discovering only a trap: he gets chained up in
the same bathroom from the original, his son is revealed safe in Jigsaw’s lair
and Amanda (survivor of the reverse beartrap in the first) as Jigsaw’s protégé.
Definitely a more logical plot twist than the original.

Is Saw II scary? Not at all. But I did get wrapped up in the drama and
increased gore content. Ask me if I would prefer terror or entertainment night
after night, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.[rtimage]MapID=1152222&MapTypeID=2&photo=3&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Body count: 7.

Most inventive trap: A pit full of hypodermic needles. Shawnee Smith
is 2 for 2!

Stupid person in a horror movie moment: Using a key on a door when
specifically instructed not to. Sort of an obvious one.

See Saw schedule:

  • Day 1 (10/15):

    Saw (2004)

  • Day 2 (10/16): Saw II (2005)
  • Day 3 (10/19): Saw III (2006)
  • Day 4 (10/20): Saw IV (2007)
  • Day 5 (10/21): Saw V (2008)
  • Day 6 (10/23): Saw VI (2009)

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