Saw II

The premise behind Saw and Saw II is generic enough for countless sequels. A serial killer creates elaborate traps to test the fortitude and character of his victims. He makes them play 'games,' where they live or die. For the viewer, this means a whole series of grisly death sequences, i.e. what passes for horror these days. It doesn't matter what order one watches these two films in; oddly enough, Saw II would probably work better as the first movie. After all, it doesn't have the extremely annoying ending that Saw did. But it's more of the same, this time with more trapped people. They try to figure out how to survive while the police try to figure out where they are.

The lone holdover from Saw is Amanda (Shawnee Smith, The Island, Saw). She survived, only to find herself in a new game. Eight people are trapped in a house. A deadly gas is in the air and in their lungs. They will die in two hours, and the doors will open in three. Spread throughout the house are syringes with the antidote, but in order to get these, they need to solve clues. Amanda serves as the 'narrator,' giving the others the background they need. Of course the group dynamic breaks down and everybody begins mistrusting each other in a mad rush to survive. Of course, this give writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman and co-writer Leigh Whannel (Saw) the perfect opportunity to come up with up to eight extremely grisly death traps.

This is the problem with Saw and Saw II. Any coherent story falls way to imaginative and violent ways to kill people. There's not much "horror" here, just lots of gore (which is the problem with the horror genre today). The characters seem especially stupid - even with some very easy clues and the presence of Amanda, it still takes them nearly the entire film to figure out what some of them are. The other problem is that with the lack of story, the lack of character is all the more evident. There are eight people, but who are they, and why should the viewer care about any of them? So one dies - what's the point? To fix this, Bousman and Whannel connect the detectives with Daniel (Erik Knudsen, The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, Tribulation).

Daniel is the son of Detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg, Dreamcatcher, Triggermen). Jigsaw, the serial killer, taunts Mason to help solve the case. Mason has a slightly shady past as a police officer, and when he learns his son is trapped, goes ballistic. He's working with Kerry (Dina Meyer, Saw, Star Trek: Nemesis) on trying to solve the case before all of the trapped people die. The very presence of Meyer is not a good sign. She deserves more credit than typically given, but cannot seem to pick a decent script. First, she should branch away from the constant stream of fantasy/sci-fi movies. Anyway, this emotional connection feels too fake, merely another 'game.'

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated R for grisly violence, gore, terror, language, and drug content.

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