254 – Saw II

A bunch of people wake up and groggily get to their feet. They’re in a creepy looking room. They don’t know each other. Then they’re informed they have to find a way out of the house in a matter of hours, or the nerve gas they’ve been inhaling will strike ’em dead as a doornail. Naturally, some booby traps aim to prevent this.

This follow up to the 2004 original could have lapsed into typical sequelitis and just been terribly derivative and dull. You know the drill: Kill a whole slew o’ people in horrible, disgusting ways that in no way further the plot. But Saw II doesn’t quite stoop that low. The horrible, disgusting killings do indeed further the plot.

I am reminded of an old radio program called The Shadow. You might recognize the name, since Alec Baldwin played the titular hero in a 1994 movie. But it began in radio, and there was one episode called “The House That Death Built.” In the episode, people were offed in creative ways by booby traps, such as a gas chamber and a series of shotguns.

It’s usually difficult to translate the unseen horror, like radio can,to a full-length feature film, and indeed most movies fail to do so. But Saw II does do so. You know right away these aren’t characters we’re meant to find appealing, or root for. No needless attention is paid to their backgrounds; all that you get on each character is all that you need to put things together. No dialog is especially wasted, and that – along with the always-fun gore – is what makes this movie work.

Of course, if you don’t like blood in your film, you’re going to really hate this one. It’s everywhere. People spurt from all sorts of orifices, plus some new ones. But things don’t seem to be done with the intent to shock, another point in the movie’s favor.

Saw II: ***

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