Revisiting Saw II

Saw II is an excellent but brutal movie. It sets the formula for the sequels that follow, and it dials up the gruesome horror from the first film to an extremely high level. Behind the camera is Darren Lynn Bousman, the same man who is directing the new Saw movie, Spiral. Let’s dive into my thoughts on Saw II.

In Saw II Donnie Wahlberg portrays a detective whose son is captured and inside a house with eight other people. With a poisonous gas being pumped into the dwelling, they have two hours to find a way out. In a wonderful article written by Bousman in a recent issue of Fangoria, he explains how he came up with the idea for Jigsaw to be captured within the first few minutes of this film, which is a bold move. His reasoning behind this is because it forces the audience to wonder how Jigsaw could still pull his strings from within captivity, and it provides the opportunity for extensive character development. We get to know this evil mastermind on a deeper level, and it allows Tobin Bell to shine like only he can.

With his soft-spoken and psychotic delivery, Jigsaw conjures up visions of Jake “The Snake” Roberts cutting a devious promo on one of his myriad opponents during the glory days of the WWF. My favorite piece of dialogue wound up being the tagline for the movie: “Oh, yes, there will be blood!” Right before saying this amazing one-liner, Jigsaw cracks a big smile, talking about the detective’s son.

Bousman did a wonderful job with this movie. I especially enjoy his inventive transitions from scene to scene, and he knows how to amp up the intensity of the most uncomfortable scenes to push the audience’s buttons. This movie isn’t supposed to make us feel safe, and it sure doesn’t. We’re supposed to squirm around in our seat, shocked by the depravity. Similar to the slashers of the 1980s, this caused other filmmakers to try and one-up each other when it came to placing protagonists in distressing and violent situations, resulting in the label “torture porn” being applied to the Saw movies and others in the horror genre.

This movie takes the traps from the first one to another level, and it creates the formula for future sequels: place a group of people, who don’t value their lives, in a location, leave some tapes behind for them to play, place them under a time limit to play by the rules of the game, and lay out traps before them that they must get through to survive. It’s effective, and since this is the first film in the series to employ this approach on such a grand scale, it’s fresh and new at this point.

The best part of this movie, like the first one, is the ending. The climax involves scenery from the first Saw, which is great fan service, and there’s a montage explaining the reality of the situation, with flashbacks to help connect the dots. Charlie Clouser’s epic Saw theme plays over top these moments, as the viewer realizes what’s happening. There are multiple twists, and all of them are delightful, especially when you consider how if the detective had simply followed the literal advice of Jigsaw so much bloodshed could have been avoided. But then we wouldn’t have had a film! While it’s not essential, the Saw movies are best watched in order. If you watched the first, check this one out too. It expands on the story of Jigsaw from the first movie, while introducing new elements, creating a visceral experience that is both shocking and satisfying.

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