Saw II
R1 - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (14th March 2006).
The Film

Saw II was shot over 25 days, with a relatively new to the scene filmmaker Bousman, who had written a script entitled The Desperate, keep in mind that this was before the first Saw (2004) was released in theatres. It was purchased mainly because it was too similar to Saw and Lionsgate wanted to capitalise on these types of films in case the film was a huge success. Well it was and the writer of the first film, Leigh Whannell came onboard with Bousman to re-write his script into a proper sequel. As quickly as you can say Jigsaw the second film was under the lens for a tiny budget of around $4 million. Released on Halloween 2005, the sequel exploded and eventually grossed a phenomenal $87+ million in the United States alone. Lionsgate savvy marketing of the picture, along with continual internet buzz made for one of the biggest openings for a horror film - and this one was a sequel to boot.
The immediate success of the first film pretty much dictated that a sequel would be on the way, but getting one so quickly after the filmís release came as a surprise. Rushing a sequel is never a good idea, often underdeveloped scripts get used, the wrong directors are hired and in horror especially they try to capture the feel of the original without really adding anything new and almost always leads to disappointment. I watched the first movie among a preview audience and found it a frightening experience, although the film had flaws most notably were that the performances arenít great and the script allocated some time for us to get to know the characters (while this is generally a good thing, to foster a sort of connection or develop sympathies to characters, in this case it only made these characters seem a whole lot more annoying). Which Iím glad wasnít done in this sequel, we know very little about the victims, itís very clear right from the start that they are there to die, pure and simple, and itís all part of the game.
The filmís tagline reads ďOh yes - there will be bloodĒ and right from the start I was fairly excited, I love horror movies that have the balls enough to take you over the edge. Ones that arenít afraid of a hard R-rating and give you the maximum amount of carnage possible and Saw II almost goes there. It breaks the surface, goes a little farther than the first but doesnít totally go for its maximum potential. Maybe the producers will leave that for the third instalment (already given the green light) or perhaps because they had such a tight turnaround time between the release of the first film and this one. There will eventually be an Unrated version with more gore and violence that you werenít allowed to see in this R-rated theatrical version (this is commented on in the audio commentary, but no word on when and if it will be released), so maybe Lionsgate are holding off for another DVD release? Whatever the case, this film had the capability of exceeding my expectations, but managed to only just match it. Saw II is certainly better than its predecessor by a margin. Itís a tighter paced more lean film that has some very disturbing torture surprises in store for us and director Darren Lynn Bousman is at the wheel of this sick and twisted ride.
In Saw II Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back. A brilliant yet disturbed and sinister serial killer returns for another round of horrifying life-or-death games. He traps his victims and punishing them for their crimes, the shows them that they shouldnít take their lives for granted. One of these new murder victims is discovered, a puzzle piece shaped bit of skin removed indicates itís the work of Jigsaw, and Detective Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) and partner Kerry (Dina Meyer) begin an investigation that leads to the rather quick apprehension of Jigsaw. But for Jigsaw, getting caught was just another part of his game. Mathews discovers that eight more victims are already fighting for their lives in a sealed off house and now itís time for him to join the game when his son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen) is one of those victims. Trapped in a house the eight people must find an antidote that will cure them from a deadly gas they are breathing in. One antidote for each person, but getting them is a lot harder than they think.
Right from the word go, we are thrust into an over the top game, where the victim must cut into his eye to retrieve a key that stops a head mask filled with spikes closing on his face. Saw II is filled with moments like this, so itís fair to say that if you have a weak stomach then this film is probably not for you. The best of the gags takes place in the house where the eight victims all go through special tailor made traps, all of which are memorable and leave you on the edge of your seat. The needle pit and the hand trap are by far my favorites, the hand trap, although very cool, made the character of Addison (Emmanuelle Vaugier) seem like the stupidest person on the planet. She puts her first hand in and it gets caught, and almost immediately she puts her second hand in? All she needed to do was take a minute and figure it out, but what we (as an audience) did not see was that under the box, the blades were hidden (I discovered this in one of the featurettes). A simple cut-away shot could have explained this otherwise ridiculous move on her characterís part.
This film does have its fair share of characters that just plain get on your nerves; Xavier (Franky G) is just that character, this guy spent the whole movie complaining and tearing s**t apart. Not only does that not help matters, but we have to deal with this jerk for almost the entire duration of the movie. Xavier could have had the potential of being an interesting character but instead the filmmakers relegated him to another throwaway character with a bad disposition.
The different traps, although very innovative are all stumbled upon accidentally. Now Iím not sure exactly how big this house is, but after escaping from the main room the victims search through the premises, how is it that they missed a few rooms here and there? This whole stumbling to discoveries bulls**t doesnít fly and I felt was one other weakness that I spotted.
I also felt that the traps werenít really used to their full extend, Iíd have liked to see the filmmakers go a little farther, besides your serial killer uses a f*****g doll to scare the s**t out of people, at this point what would your audience not believe? I say push the envelope. I would have also liked to see more traps, there were eight people to start with but not all of them died from traps. Now aside from these gripes Saw II was a twisted ride, if you enjoyed the first one then youíll likely get a kick out of this one. The film is well paced and has some nice surprises in store, I especially enjoyed the twist ending and look forward to Saw III next year, if only for the crazy traps the filmmakers will think of next. So until then, wait till dark and give this one a spin, itís not the best horror out there but it sure as hell is a fun one.

Video

The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, this anamorphic transfer is very good, considering the filmís low budget this is a nice effort. The image has some grain and the colors are quite murky however this is a stylistic choice rather than a problem with the transfer. Grain is evident that has provided for a not so sharp overall image but it still stands up quite well under scrutiny. The black levels display a fine amount of detail and shadows are consistent throughout dark scenes and night exteriors. The filmís color grade makes for overexposed lighter colors giving the film a 'hyper-real' look and therefore skin tones are not entirely natural. Overall I was very pleased with this transfer and it certainly looks good on a big display.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this release an English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround track and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. I chose to view the film with itís 5.1 EX encoded track for the purposes of this review and found it a shining effort, Lionsgate have something to be very proud of here. The track displays an amazing sense of depth, environmental surrounds are well mixed and all feel natural and includes a multitude of different noises. Kudos to the sound designers for creating a very tense and often unnerving audio experience, dialogue is also very clear and never peaks especially during screams or other loud activity.
Optional subtitles are provided in both English and the Spanish variety.

Extras

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary with director/co-writer Darren Lynn Bousman, and actors Donnie Wahlberg and Beverley Mitchell. The participants discuss various aspects of the production and also provide some fun info and give us a sense of what it was like coming to the set and working on this film. The track is quite lighthearted given the genre of this film and is also quite fun to listen to. I was a little disappointed overall, I would have like to hear from the co-writer and perhaps some of the other department heads such as photography and effects and make-up since this film has a unique style and design for the torture gags. This minor gripe aside itís a rather good track that provides a fair bit of information.

The first featurette is entitled "Jigsaw's Game" which runs for 2 minutes 56 seconds. This is a very brief and basic EPK piece that tells us what the character of Jigsaw is up to in this sequel, something youíd know about if you watched the film. The key cast and crew comment on the character and his motives.

Next up we have a series of four featurettes under the title "The Traps of Jigsaw" these four clips focus on a different contraption. The clips included are:

- The Head Trap this clip runs for 4 minutes 22 seconds and focuses on the making-of the head piece worn by the victim at the beginning of the film. We also look at the differences between this version of the trap and the one seen in the first film. The prop masters and design team take us through the process of making this working prop.

- The Needle Pit runs for 8 minutes 36 seconds and takes a look at the creation of that sequence; it took 4 people several days to make the syringes safe by removing the tips and replacing them with a fiber optic tip. The art department shows us the tricks used to make it look a lot more menacing and the make-up crew show us how they applied the syringes that were stuck into Amadaís (Shawnee Smith) arms.

- The Hand Trap runs for 2 minutes 51 seconds and looks at the design of the blades, the construction of the box and how to make it safe to put your hands in there and remove them for the actress caught in it for that scene.

- The Furnace runs for 4 minutes 2 seconds, here we get a look at how this scene was executed with a furnace built for the production, it has false sides to accommodate certain camera angles. Everything was pre-planned with a computer model before the prop was built and a stunt man is really set on fire for some of the shots.

Next up is the "Bits & Pieces: The Props of Jigsaw" featurette this clip runs for 4 minutes 33 seconds. Here we take a look at the different props that were manufactured for this production, these include corpses (that were actually on loan) that represent the characters from the first film, as well as the baseball bat with the nails in it, some prosthetic applications for wounds and also the robotically controlled Jigsaw doll.

We also get a series of "Storyboard to Screen" comparisons, on the screen we get to see the storyboards on the left hand side of the screen and the completed scene on the right. Four scenes are included and they are:
- Death Mask which looks at the opening scene of the film and runs for 3 minutes 39 seconds.
- The Furnace this is the scene where Obi is trapped and cannot get out of the burning furnace, it runs for 3 minutes 22 seconds.
- Needle in a Haystack looks at the infamous needle pit scene were Xavier throws Amada into the pit and runs for 2 minutes 43 seconds.
- Jigsaw's Lair takes a look at the SWAT team storming into the hideout and runs for 1 minute 45 seconds.

Following that is a Conceptual Art gallery that includes 19 images of production art work ranging from sets to props and sequences from the film to set a mood of provide reference for costume designers, prop builders and art department.

We also get a theatrical trailer that runs for 47 seconds and is basically more a teaser than a full fledged trailer per se.

A collection of bonus trailers round out the discís extras and include:
- "Saw: Unrated" which runs for 1 minute 41 seconds.
- "Three...Extremes" that runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- Audition" that runs for 1 minute 43 seconds.
- "Tamara" which runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- Ultimate Avengers: The Movie" that runs for 52 seconds.

Aside from the commentary I was left wanting much more from these brief extras, the four "The Traps of Jigsaw" featurettes are among the better ones, I would have liked to have seen a decent documentary and perhaps some deleted scenes, the comments made by Bousman in commentary suggest an Unrated Version does exists perhaps Lionsgate are saving content for another release as they did with the first filmís release on DVD.

Packaging

This disc is packaged in a clear amaray case, with a plastic slip-cover. The case itself does not have a sleeve so that you can see the disc inside with the saw-graphics on the disc.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: B Overall: A

 


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