Horror review: Saw II



The original Saw had a pretty interesting premise, and one that kept the options wide open for gruesome, sadistic, squirm-in-your-seat horror. It was about a psychopathic genius named Jigsaw who trapped people and made them play horrific beat-the-clock games for a slim chance at avoiding a grisly death.

The weakest components of the original were actually its two main stars, Carey Elwes and Danny Glover, neither of whom were believable in their respective roles of imprisoned dentist and hard-nosed cop. For the sequel, the filmmakers made a smart choice: they dumped the name actors and concentrated on the devious hoops that Jigsaw’s guinea pigs are forced to jump through in order to try and save their skins.

The result is a grimy and relentless portrayal of high-tension cruelty that’s excruciating to watch but as riveting as a nail gun to the nut sack.

The opening scene sets the tone. We’re shown some poor sap with a gouged-up eye who wakes up to find that he’s been kidnapped and fitted with a rusty metal contraption around his neck that’s set with rows of sharp spikes. From a nearby TV monitor, Jigsaw calmly explains to the freaked-out captive that he gets one chance to find a small key that can release the wicked mechanism from his trembling shoulders.

Trick is, it’s been implanted directly behind his mangled eye, and he only has a short amount of time to retrieve it-with the use of a scalpel-before the springloaded “Venus Flytrap” snaps shut around his achin’ head.

Two scenes after that sick but suspenseful intro, it looks like Saw II might be garbage after all, because when hard-ass detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg) confronts his delinquent son Daniel (Erik Knudsen), a wayward boom-mike dips down into frame. That’s director-cowriter Darren Lynn Bousman’s only major screwup, though; most of his time during Saw II‘s whirlwind 25-day shoot was spent injecting a feverish intensity into the nasty goings-on, which, like Saw, revolve around a cop’s frantic attempts to save people from Jigsaw’s booby-trapped house of horrors.

Tobin Bell returns to steal the show as the soft-spoken and brilliantly twisted villain, channelling Rutger Hauer and veteran character actor Brion James, whom he closely resembles. All the lesser-knowns cast as Jigsaw’s tormented playthings do good work depicting their drawn-out suffering, not that the constant spitting up of blood requires much rehearsal.

Unless you’re a dedicated gore hound, there’s a good chance you’ll come out of Saw II feeling sickened and disgusted. But you could also look at it from an educational standpoint. For example, I learned that the sight of a musclebound man swinging a spike-laden baseball bat into the back of a living guy’s skull was infinitely less disturbing than the sight of a petite woman wrenching said bat from the back of a dead guy’s skull.

Who says horror flicks are for dummies?

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