Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer(s): Darren Lynn Bousman & Leigh Whannell
Studio/Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Box Office: $147.7m
Release Date: 28 October, 2005
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
UK Blu Ray release? Yes
Tobin Bell – Jigsaw/John Kramer
Shawnee Smith – Amanda
Donnie Wahlberg – Eric Matthews
Erik Knudsen – Daniel Matthews
Franky G – Xavier Chavez
Glenn Plummer – Jonas Singer
Emmanuelle Vaugier – Addison Corday
Beverley Mitchell – Laura Hunter
Timothy Burd – Obi Tate
Plot According to IMDb
A detective and his team must rescue eight people trapped in a factory by the twisted serial killer known as Jigsaw.
The success of Saw, the smash hit splatter that helped give rise to the poorly dubbed ‘Torture Porn sub-genre’ by debut duo James Wan and Leigh Whannell, was crying out for a sequel. Not only did the identity of Jigsaw shock audiences but it also paved the way for the inevitable sequel. Its dire ending as Jigsaw slammed the door of the bathroom set the tone for these future sequels, and Saw II does everything it can to turn it up a notch.
The film opens in true Saw fashion – a trap is set, Billy the Puppet pops up and reminds the unfortunate soul with a masochistic spike-filled mask stuck to his face that he has to perform a task that may bring him near death but will ultimately save his life. And so we establish the barbarity of Jigsaw, his game stepped up a notch, a sign of what’s to come.
Just as soon as we’ve seen someone impaled inside a mask that won’t find its way on to ASDA’s shelves this Halloween, we’re immersed into the police investigation of Jigsaw, the authorities seeming to be one step behind the infamous serial killer. Detective Eric Matthews finds his name written on the wall at the latest crime scene, and what seems to be a challenge turns into a personal test for the detective that will push him to his limits.
Donnie Whalberg executes the look and sound of a weathered cop struggling with family issues and sporting the permanent 9 o clock shadow. His forlorn expression hides a vulnerability that he expels with anger – he’s a cop on the edge, so it’s no wonder Jigsaw has chosen him to be the latest pawn in his puzzle.
Just as soon as the police break in to Jigsaw’s place and apprehend John Kramer, the game begins. He pits Detective Matthews against the fate of his son, expecting only one thing in return: patience. Meanwhile, a crack house full of Jigsaw’s next chosen victims – including Matthews’ son – must find the antidote to a nerve gas that is currently coursing through their veins. Expecting a group of delinquent misfits with their own secrets to work together is a stretch, and is what provides us with the basis for most of the films ‘scares’. And yes, I use that term lightly, because whilst we’re watching a horror film, there’s less to scare you and more to make you uncomfortable as their physical torture is depicted in graphic detail.
You can definitely tell that James Wan is missing from this film. Whannell’s script carefully navigates the plot, always keeping you guessing and anticipating the next twist. But there’s little you can do to stay invested with it when the camera is frantically throwing itself around a suffering character, flashing and cutting frantically like Bousman is on skittles. It does little to enthuse and only exaggerates the reliance on violence to minimal effect.
Fortunately, the film lives up to the hype of the first film by giving us an incredible plot twist that makes you gawp at the screen in shock, whilst at the same time punching the sofa in fury at Matthews and his lack of patience, the one thing that could have ended Jigsaw’s reign forever. The inhabitants of the house take a predictable turn and our own patience runs thin; fortunately, we’re saved by the change of events at Jigsaw’s gaff.
And so we’re returned to that same miserable bathroom from the first film, another downbeat ending that extends Jigsaw’s reign over those who are there to protect us, highlighting his salient point: no-one can save us; we’re in control of our own destiny. It gives us the potential for another sequel that, at the time, we couldn’t quite imagine would take us as far as it did.
The first time I watched Saw II, it left me feeling miserable. It has a bleak tone and a downbeat ending, its lack of survivors only emphasising this harsh world that Jigsaw creates. On reflection years later, there’s still that feeling of misery but Bousman’s frenetic camerawork does well to bring you out of it.
Inertia’s Ideal Score (★ out of 5)
- It took four days for four people to replace all of the needle tips with fibre tips for the needle pit scene
- The bathroom from the first film had to be completely rebuilt for this film
- This is the highest grossing Saw film in the US & Canada
- Five alternate endings were shot
JOHN: Those who don’t appreciate life don’t deserve life.
ERIC: My son appreciates his life.
JOHN: But do you appreciate yours? Do you appreciate your son’s?
JOHN: The jigsaw piece that I cut from my subjects was only ever meant to be a symbol that that subject was missing something. A vital piece of the human puzzle. The survival instinct.
ERIC: This is all really, really interesting, John. But right now I’d really like for you to talk to me.
JOHN: I am talking to you. You’re not listening.
Tomorrow: Night #12 – Don’t Breathe (2016)