This movie lacks nothing in the creepy department.
Sadly, this film feels like the second movie in a franchise.
After some highly stylized murders detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) becomes convinced that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back in action. Upon going after and capturing the notorious killer, it becomes apparent that things have been too easy, and even though Jigsaw's body is riddled with cancer he's still playing a very deadly game. He informs Matthews and the other officers that he has trapped a bunch of other people in one of his deadly games, and making matters worse is that Matthew's son (Erik Knudsen) is one of the captured. Also, in with this new group of people is Amanda (Shawnee Smith) who was the only person ever to have escaped from Jigsaw's clutches. What follows is a game where the participants are called to hurt one another, hurt themselves, and even kill in order to survive.
The Jigsaw character is a rightful heir to the throne once occupied by Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. What makes Tobin Bell's personification of this character so blood curdling is that he is human, he just seems to be levels above everyone that he involves in his deadly games.
They have given us two commentary tracks here. One is with Director Darren Lynn Bousman, Production Designer David Hackl and Editor Kevin Greutert. There is another track with Executive Producer James Wan and Writer/Executive Producer Leigh Whannell. I decided to listen to the track with Wan and Whannell since they were the original braintrust behind this film. After going through this and hearing what these guys had to say, I couldn't help but wonder if Wan wasn't being too much of a good sport. It has to be painfully obvious that the first film was better, yet he talks about Saw II in an almost reverential manner. All in all, I thought this commentary was interesting, but these guys didn't say anything that surprised me.
Gregg Hoffman: In Memoriam - Tribute to Producer Gregg Hoffman
"The Story Behind the Story"
Scott Tibbs has put together a documentary that examines the origins of this franchise. While I think it might be a little early to start looking at these films this way, I did find this interesting. I love when featurettes takes us into the creative process, and who could have known that the original cool idea for a horror movie would end up becoming what it became? I would like to have seen a little more footage of the main players in their early days (some scenes of them achieving their early success in getting the first film made would have been nice), but all in all of everything that this disc contains, this segment is the most original.
1.85:1 MPEG-2/1080p Transfer - For those of you wanting that crystal clear Blu-ray clarity, you do and don't get that with this DVD release. There are the scenes where we see Jigsaw in the brightly lit room discussing things with Donnie Wahlberg. These are very sharp and contrast heavily with the look of the scenes of his victims. These scenes can best be described as dirty. There is a very ugly mixture of greens, blacks and browns that don't really translate that well to the next generation experience. In some ways this may look like a mistake, but something tells me that this was the filmmakers intent. What better way to really get us into this world than make us feel gross as we're watching this film? If things were too clean, that would clearly take away from the effect.
DTS HD Audio 6.1 Multi-Channel Surround Mix. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX Soundtrack. This movie sounds really good even if I don't care for the musical component of the soundtrack. I find that it sounds almost too gimmicky. As the creators of this DVD think that we should be afraid of Jigsaw, therefore they hope we will be by the audio that has been employed. This isn't saying that the audio isn't scary, I just felt that it was undercut by certain aspects of this movie's score. When it's just the ambient sounds of the traps, or Jigsaw's whispery voice, this disc is downright creepy. I wish there would have been more of that and less of the other unneeded theatrics.
The x-ray with the image of the key in the victims skull is a very startling one for this front cover. In fact, it sort of seems out of place considering how tech Blu-ray is supposed to be. The back cover has some images from this movie, a description of what Saw II is about, a cast list, and system specs. One thing I have realized is that it seems, more than ever before, system specs take on much more importance with these next generation titles.
All in all, I thought that Saw II was a decent followup to the original, however, had this movie come out first I feel that the franchise would not be as highly regarded as it is. It just seemed like a setup. This really isn't the fault of the filmmakers, it has to do with having seen enough movies to know that we are being put in a position to be manipulated in some way. While a lot of the scares were done well, I just don't think that there was as much done to the writing this time around. And it makes sense, the first movie was written and had time to gestate before it got made. Saw II was followed up a year later, and with everything else going on in Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman's lives, it would be understandable if they were a little distracted.
It is apparent that the Saw franchise is going to continue as long as there is money to be had (lord knows they could spin this thing off on home video forever), so it is understandable that not every film is going to be great. As another piece of the puzzle, Saw II gets the job done it just doesn't do it that well.
Saw II was released October 28, 2005.