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Saw II
cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, and Dina Meyer

director: Darren Lynn Bousman

89 minutes (18) 2005
widescreen ratio 16:9
EIV DVD Region 2 rental / retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Mike Philbin
For the first ten minutes of this film (the sequel to the very popular Saw) there's a man with a sprung medieval torture device affixed around his neck. If he can't find a hidden key in time, whammo, the lethal front and back of this nasty looking piece of Inquisition mechanism will snap shut on his panicked little head. He finds a TV and on it a masked tormentor suggests just where the key might be and offers a scalpel so that he can dig it out. You see how evil this is when you see how evil the secret key-place is. At the end of this film, there's a really clever and surprise twist (or sting in the tail) which was really interesting considering the hour and a 20 minutes of dross that preceded it.

I'm not sure what it was that annoyed me the most but the most likely culprit was this - everybody in Saw II is a whiny little brat. As opposed to the two guys of Saw, this one has a 'ragbag team' of captives who're dropped into a maniacal maze and offered methods of escape by the masked tormentor. I forget how many of them there are, maybe five or six. It took me a couple of gos to actually get all the way through the film such was its tedium and if I had to watch it again to verify the number, I'd be sure to suffer an embolism. Now, I know these (five or six) men and women are in a bit of a pickle. They've been given a nerve agent and have only so long to navigate the puzzle maze in which they've been placed but...

Maybe it was the director Darren Lynn Bousman ordering such whining performances from his 'actors'. Maybe it was the script (by James Wan and Leigh Whannell) demanding depictions of 'panic' or 'peril'. Maybe it was the special effects' team's morbid proclivity for severed flesh. Maybe it was the general ambience on the set, as the approaching deadline juggernauted this mo-fo into the can. It just comes across as unwholesomely whiny.

There are two main sets in the film, the aforementioned puzzle-house and the police operations room where they have captured the mastermind behind the events of Saw and are trying hard to prevent the hideous outcome of Saw II. Hell, he may have even had a name (and a franchisable character profile - he had white hair) but I'm certainly not gonna martyrise the guy by doing a Freddy or a Jason on his namesake. It just didn't warrant further marketing. Oh, thank God, IMDb saved me - the masked tormentor's name is Jigsaw; figures.

And one of my favourite actresses was in this choresome travesty of a horror film, Dina Meyer from Starship Troopers, and even she was whiny in it. And, yeah, she just has to appear in 'Saw 3', it's must have been written into her contract. Maybe the whining angle was exactly how they pitched it to the executives, 'Okay, okay, we got these five or six kids (hell, even we don't give a damn how many of them there are) and we get them to kill each other, yeah, 'cos they're a load of whining brats, and like, yeah, that's the post-9/11 image we want to portray about America and Americans, is that they should all be locked up by Jigsaw in some rotting, poisonous rust dungeon and tricked into murdering each other.' The true American dream/ nightmare - delete as racially appropriate.

I mean, come on, Hollywood, where are the great slasher horror films like A Nightmare On Elm Street, the great monster horror films like The Thing, the great space horror films like Alien, the great supernatural horror films like The Exorcist? I mean, compare and contrast time. Okay, I'll drop back somewhere near the enemy lines of this atrocity's genre - The Abyss. Some might say there's very little in common with these two films but you'd be wrong. Saw II and The Abyss both have a 'ragtag team' of individuals who are trapped in a predicament from which many of them won't escape; there's collective peril and a belligerent protagonist. But what differentiates these two films (I mean apart from script, actors, directors and story) is character. The people in The Abyss had real character, even the Michael Biehns of the spectrum. You really cared that even the nuclear-warhead-toting psycho was having a really bad reaction to the pressure. That film brought tears to viewers' eyes.

Saw II brought tears to my eyes, too, but in a more shamed way. I cried when I thought of all the hospitals that could have been made instead of this abomination. I cried when I thought of all the children who could be taken on a family day out to the seaside or the funfair instead of this abomination. I cried most of all for all the great film ideas that don't pander to the flavour of the month (mastermind serial torturers) and grab the lowest common denominator $ that could have been made instead of this abomination. Thank God we have directors like Pedro Almodóvar and Takashi Miike to effect an artistic balance somewhere over the rainbow.

DVD extras? Please, don't tempt me...

I was gonna give this garbage Z-movie minus-13 out of ten, but I know (from bitter experience scoring the equally atrocious The Deli) that my editor is not gonna allow that, therefore (and basically just for the great start and the cunning finale): score three out of ten.
NEXT

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