Saw & Saw II

by Tim Dodd on October 28, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

I just saw Saw. I saw Saw II first, which prompted me to see Saw as a bit of “research” for what would hopefully be a “well-written” review of Saw’s sequel, Saw II. If you saw Saw, then you may or may not want to see Saw II too. Cos’ I just found out that Saw is much better than Saw II. Sorry to burst horror movie fans’ bubbles, but it’s what we do best here at Razorfine.

After seeing Saw II my main thought was “wow… the idea had promise, but in true Hollywood fashion, they effed it up with plot convolutions that make episodes of The Prisoner look like The Wiggles.” I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but it left a lot to be desired as far as movies that I’d ever really want to see again even for free go. This, of course, made me want to see Saw and try to figure out how a sequel was even made. Well, I found out.

Saw II
2 & 1/2 Stars

I just saw Saw. I saw Saw II first, which prompted me to see Saw as a bit of “research” for what would hopefully be a “well-written” review of Saw’s sequel, Saw II. If you saw Saw, then you may or may not want to see Saw II too. Cos’ I just found out that Saw is much better than Saw II. Sorry to burst horror movie fans’ bubbles, but it’s what we do best here at Razorfine.

After seeing Saw II my main thought was “wow… the idea had promise, but in true Hollywood fashion, they effed it up with plot convolutions that make episodes of The Prisoner look like The Wiggles.” I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but it left a lot to be desired as far as movies that I’d ever really want to see again even for free go. This, of course, made me want to see Saw and try to figure out how a sequel was even made. Well, I found out.

For those of you who might have missed it (much like I did), Saw is actually a pretty good movie. It has Cary Elwes and Danny Glover in it, for chrissakes. Cary Elwes was Robin Hood! Oh yeah, he was also the main guy in that Princess Bride movie that youngsters seem to like so much, but he was in Hot Shots too! And Danny Glover was in Silverado. Silver-fuckin’-rado, the best goddamn western ever made starring Kevin Kline and Brian Dennehy. Ok, so Cary and Danny aren’t at the top of the heap these days, but Danny Glover was in Lethal Weapon (and Operation Dumbo Drop)!!!

Who does Saw II have in it? Donnie Wahlberg. I won’t make any jokes about how he was in New Kids on the Block (Aaron already did when we were in the theater) because I think his acting is actually pretty good in this. But still, he’s no Danny Glover (Lonesome Dove, anyone?)

So Saw is basically about these two guys who wake up in a dirty bathroom chained to the wall and staring at a dead body in the middle of the room. They soon figure out that some sicko has captured them and is making them play a game in order to save their own lives. Cary Elwes is one of the two guys, a stuffy doctor whose wife and kid have also been kidnapped by the sicko. The other dude in the room is a wacky photographer who’s been spying on Cary. Cary is given instructions that he must kill the photographer guy before 6 a.m. or his wife and kid go bye-bye. The two are each given saws and a few other little “game pieces” in order to carry on the play.

Danny Glover is a police detective who is on the case of a serial-killer-like guy they call “Jigsaw” who has been kidnapping people and putting them through elaborate tests of their character, which usually end in their deaths. Jigsaw is obviously the one in control of the proceedings in the bathroom, and Danny does his best to find the killer (then again, by this point in the fairly intricate story he’s been slashed in the throat, discharged from duty, and is insane… don’t ask).

Alright, I’m gonna spoil some stuff for you guys and gals that haven’t seen Saw, so if you wanna see this stuff for yourselves, skip to the next paragraph. We think that the guy in charge of this sick stuff is an orderly at the hospital in which Cary works and that he’s Jigsaw. Cary’s been banging a student doctor and it’s affecting his marriage. Jigsaw is trying to teach him a lesson about appreciating one’s family as well as giving the photographer a lesson on why he shouldn’t spy on people. But then, there’s a twist!!! The Disorderly Orderly is actually under orders from another guy, an old cancer patient of the good doctor’s who has flipped his lid since he discovered his own mortality. The old guy is really Jigsaw, and after Cary’s wife and kid have escaped from the orderly, gunshots are fired, Cary goes nuts and saws his own foot off to escape, shoots the photographer, the orderly comes in, the photographer gets up (he was only faking it) and bashes the orderly’s head in with a toilet tank cover. Cary slithers away for help, the dead body in the middle of the room rises… it’s Jigsaw and he’s ready to rumble. Well, not really. He just gives the photographer a little shock treatment, and locks the dude up in the room to rot. Oh yeah, he gets in a clever quip: “Game over!”

Was that confusing? Are you wondering what the hell I was just going on about? Are you thinking “Wow, this Tim guy is insane… I’m gonna go read what some guy on IMDB has to say”? Well, good! I’m just trying to weed out the pussies. And yeah, I am insane. Insane about movies. Let’s continue.

For Saw II, Jigsaw is back, and he’s dyin’ to teach some other sinners a lesson. He’s kidnapped Detective Eric Mason’s (Donnie Wahlberg) son and locked him in a house with a group of other kidnappees. He’s set up an (of course) elaborate game for all of them to play and, as in the first movie, gives the “players” a series of choices to make. Bad choices end in death (and a lesson, I guess).

Mason has been lured into finding Jigsaw and, with the aid of a SWAT team of sorts, finds Jigsaw’s hideout and comes face to face with the cancer patient himself. This withering old mad reveals to Mason that his son is part of the elaborate game and action shifts back and forth between the happenings at the house and the not-so-happenings at the hideout.

While Mason isn’t able to follow simple instructions at the hideout, dude’s son and others are back at the house being pumped full of poisonous gas. They have two hours to find antidotes for the gas’s effects which are hidden throughout the house and usually attached to some sort of puzzle or trap. If they don’t get out of the house within those two hours, the gas will kill them.

I can’t tell you any more of the plot, really, because it would spoil all the fun. Oh, wait, it really wasn’t all that fun. That’s sort of the point of this review… to tell you what was wrong with Saw II. So here we go…

First of all, Saw was compelling because it focused on the victims in the bathroom. We pretty much found out about stuff as they did. Since the emphasis is on the action, the two victim’s back stories, and the “what-the-fuck?”-ness of it all, there really isn’t too much time to think about plot holes. In Saw II, a lot of screen time is given to Jigsaw and the machinations of his evil plot. The emphasis keeps going away from the victims and to the drama between Jigsaw and Detective Mason, which really isn’t that interesting. It ends up laying bare the sheer ridiculousness of the plot and the impossibility of the intricacies involved.

What do I mean by “impossibility of the intricacies involved?” Basically, Jigsaw gives these people choices to make from several options. So many things that end up happening depend on the characters making certain choices that only a god would be able to anticipate. Jigsaw has set up an elaborate game in which like a million things have to happen in a certain way for the whole thing to work and, guess what? It works! It’s just stupid. Unlike Saw, Saw II is elaborate just for the sake of being elaborate.

Another thing that bugs me about this movie is that while the first one was a strange and disturbing horror mystery, this one comes off as just another serial killer movie. There are even parts that rip off Silence of the Lambs and Seven. Also, I like gore and violence in movies when it’s done right – with humor and cleverness. The gore and violence in Saw II is just mean-spirited, cold, and deadly serious. Certain scenes just kind of made me nauseous, and not in that good Dead Alive way. More in that “I just saw nine minutes of French rape” way, just not as shameful.

Alright, it’s time to put a cap on this one. Saw actually impressed me a bit. It left me feeling disturbed, thoughtful, and highly entertained. Saw II just left me scratching my head. There will be those that think it’s the best horror movie ever, or even the best movie of 2005, like some doofus on IMDB has already shared with us. Those are who this movie is made for, I suppose. If you’ve read this entire review, you’re probably either going to see it in the theater or rent it anyway, so let me just say that I kinda warned you. It’s not godawful by any means, it’s just not all that great.

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