Film Reviews


By • Oct 28th, 2005 •

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Lions Gate Films / Twisted Pictures
MPAA rating R / Running time — 93 minutes

QUOTE: Bigger budget, bigger cast, and more blood. Will deliver for Jigsaw’s fans.

I was walking toward the entrance to the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and would have passed a man who was coughing, but I instinctively turned in another direction. Living in the Age of AIDS, and now the impeding world doom of Avian Flu, I avoid anyone sneezing and coughing. I still believe you can catch cancer from someone. The biggest horror would be getting splashed with someone else’s blood. In SAW ll, the bloodletting is pretty excessive and nobody cares.

SAW was just so creepy, dirty, and sadistic that it found an audience thrilled by the cleverness of its minimalist concept. Movies now serve our primal bloodlust. (For the time being we will have to settle for watching nature destroy buildings and ruin people’s lives.) Just like on that prehistoric group hunt, some people die. Those that live go on to procreate.

The SAW template is genius: Imagine waking up chained in a filthy room with an Inquisition mask wired into your head with a timer ticking. The key is inside a drugged man’s stomach. You find a tiny Swiss army knife. You’ve got minutes to decide what to do.

The opening of SAW ll is just as gruesome: A player can only live by retrieving a key implanted into his eye.

SAW ll expands immensely wealthy serial killer Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) theater of horror. He’s rigged up an abandoned, booby-trapped playhouse and collected a diverse group of eight people to play his game. Instead of working together, this group does not even attempt to understand the rules outlined by Jigsaw on notes and audiotapes. They ignore Jigsaw’s clues. We are the ninth person in the room and nobody is in charge. Instead of figuring out why they were picked, or if they deserve to be in the house, they cause more havoc. One victim, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), has survived the game already. Nobody bothers to ask her for help or what she learned.

Jigsaw has targeted Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) by kidnapping his son. For all of Jigsaw’s brilliance, he has set up really lousy video feeds that Matthews and his partner Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer) view.

Except for ex-con Xavier (Franky G), the victims are passive players spitting blood. Every moment they are breathing in a toxin that will kill them in three hours. Xavier doesn’t care about the why. He intends to get out without any help. Apparently his ancestor was a lone hunter. I like the fact that all the victims, and now Detective Matthews, are responsible. SAW and SAW ll add a new dimension to horror – that of victim responsibility.

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is revealed and he makes his philosophy clear: People should value their lives more. I would hate to reveal any more of the plot except to say that Jigsaw plays a prominent role. Unfortunately, he is very old, sick, but wants to be heard. The several twists are clever (though who can forget the twist at the end of SAW?); the SAW franchise will survive. Again, a sequel is assured now that Jigsaw has spawned a fan base and disciples.

SAW’s writer and co-star Leigh Whannell co-wrote SAW ll with first-time director Darren Lynn Bousman. Adding eight victims to the room made their individual backstory and selection impossible to explain. That trade-off is regrettable.

Whannell and Bousmanhave cleverly transcended the Inquisition (and Saddam Hussein’s son Uday) in imaginative torture. I left SAW knowing Whannell is a troubled individual. (There are several museums dedicated to exhibiting Inquisition torture instruments in Europe and South America. See Museo de la Inquisición in Lima, Peru. The building was used by the Spanish Inquisition from 1570 to 1820. Admission is free but closed on Mondays. I also recommend the harrowing pictorial book “Inquisición: A Bilingual Guide To The Exhibition Of Torture Instruments From The Middle Ages To The Industrial Era Presented In Various European Cities” by Robert Held and “The History of Torture” by George Ridley Scott”.)

Note to Bousman and Whannell: From my vast collection on torture I own one book I cannot read except a page at a time but you might enjoy in full: “Scalping and Torture: Warfare Practices Among North American Indians.”)

Detective Eric Matthews: Donnie Wahlberg
Amanda: Shawnee Smith
Jigsaw: Tobin Bell
Xavier: Franky G
Jonas: Glenn Plummer
Kerry: Dina Meyer
Addison: Emmanuelle Vaugier
Laura: Beverly Mitchell
Daniel: Erik Knudsen

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenwriters: Darren Lynn Bousman, Leigh Whannell
Producers: Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules
Executive producers: Peter Block, Jason Constantine, Stacy Testro, James Wan, Leigh Whannell
Co-producer: Daniel J. Heffner
Director of photography: David Armstrong
Editor: Kevin Greutert
Production designer: David Hackl
Costume designer: Alex Kavanaugh

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