A well done sequel that doesn’t try to outdo the original film.
I really hope the person who ended up being the killer in this movie isn’t the main killer in the next movie.
Darren Lynn Bousman must have a lot of confidence in himself. I say this because to take on the responsibility of directing Saw II, when the first movie was so original and left such an impression, leads me to think that Mr. Bousman knew he could pull off a good sequel. And while I don’t think that Saw II is as good as it’s predecessor, I will say that as far as sequels go, Saw II more than gets the job done.
In this new incarnation Jigsaw is dying. He has trapped a bunch of people in a room and one by one they basically take turns killing themselves. As a police officer on the outside does everything he can to set them free (his son just happens to be trapped in Jigsaw’s game), audience members are treated to stylistically done carnage of the highest order. Eventually things come to a head with a surprise ending that may or may not surprise you. It does however leave many doors open and in doing so keeps the non-resolved ending of this franchise intact. Truthfully, Saw II does add up to being more than the sum of it’s parts.
Audio Commentary Tracks
These are audio tracks with director Darren Lynn Bousman and actors Donnie Wahlberg and Beverly Mitchell. This is actually pretty insightful simply because Bousman is obviously a very big fan of first film. Each person discusses their roles and what they tried to bring to specific scenes. I also thought this might be a bit more serious, but I think it’s pretty apparent that everybody involved likes one another and this commentary is a way to celebrate that. I especially liked hearing Bousman’s techniques for maximizing the horror being displayed on screen.
The Props of Saw II Deconstructing Jigsaw's Traps
Since these two featurettes are similar in theme, I decided that I would review them together. The Props of Saw II look at things like the hole in the ground filled with needles and other props that Jigsaw used to trap and kill his victims. This went hand in hand with Deconstructing Jigsaw's Traps, where we are not shown the traps themselves but sort of treated to the methodology behind how they were employed in the film. Overall, this is the kind of thing that a budding FX guy or propmaster would learn a lot from viewing.
Animated Storyboards and Concept Art
The animated storyboards present an almost eery cartoon version of Saw II. It was almost surreal seeing the drawings come to life in this way and it actually made me think that an animated version of this movie might not be a bad idea. The concept art is just early drawings and ideas that people had for certain traps and locations. We see how those ideas evolved into being what eventually went into this movie.
Enhanced Widescreen Letterbox for 16x9 TV’s. This movie mixes the genre of music video horror films with an almost David Fincheresque approach. As a result we get a highly stylized, dark and grainy film that is still sharp and fast paced. The compression on DVD only seems to enhance this. I was actually a bit leery because I had seen this movie in the theater. I expected that the dark aspects of the films emulsion would be much darker once compressed, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the picture quality never went too far in that direction.
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and 6.1 DTS-ES Digital Audio. As Saw II moves at such a quick pace, the sound is the one thread throughout the film that keeps viewers oriented. I didn’t realize this to be the case when I first screened the movie, but on DVD it more than made itself apparent to me. There is so much going on with the audio that it seems to have created a sense of controlled chaos. Amidst this chaos we are given room to breath but never enough to get too comfortable.
With two disgusting fingers (and very messed up fingernails) and a saw on display, it is apparent that the creators of this DVD know they have a brand here. In fact, this almost tame front cover image is so unsettling because it instantly triggers a recognition of what the movies are about. The back has a description of the film, a “Bonus” features listing and of course some technical specs. There are very few movies that could have such simplistic ominous packaging and yet be so successful. Saw II works this angle perfectly and as a result it never seems to have lost it’s lead on the curve.
How great is Tobin Bell in the role of Jigsaw? I know that the Saw movies are only horror films, but his acting goes a notch above anything Freddie Krueger, Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers have ever done. In fact, what makes Jigsaw even more scary is the almost easy vulnerability that he brings to the role. Unlike the other horror icons that I listed, Jigsaw is very much a human creation yet for some reason (like those same icons), he always ends up one step ahead of his pursuers.
It is this ability to work and rework itself out that ultimately elevates Saw II from being just another sequel to a good movie.