STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $26.98
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
• Commentary by director Darren Lynn Bousman, production designer David Hackl, and editor Kevin Greutert
• Commentary by writer/executive producer Leigh Whannell and executive producer James Wan
• "Zombie" – a short student film by director Darren Lynn Bousman
• "The Scott Tibbs Documentary" featurette
• "The Making of Saw II" featurette
• "The Story Behind the Story" featurette
• "Gregg Hoffman: In Memorium" tribute to producer Gregg Hoffman
• "Play Me" set-top game
• Trailer

The Pitch

Oh yes, there will be blood…uh…again.

The Humans

Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Frankie G., Glenn Plummer, Dina Meyer.

"Okay, say it and mean it this time: ‘I am somebody…I am somebody…’ "

The Nutshell

The Saw franchise cuts some fresh meat, literally. Jigsaw (Bell), the serial killer who sets up people in elaborately fatal traps and forces them to do grisly things in order to survive, gathers together a group of people in a house loaded with booby traps. They have to solve each deadly riddle they face in order to progress to the exit, and must do so before a toxic nerve gas kills them all. Meanwhile, Jigsaw has seemingly surrendered himself to authorities, lead by Det. Eric Matthews (Wahlberg). But Matthews quickly discovers that the “surrender” is actually another of Jigsaw’s traps, this one meant specifically for him. One of the people in the house is Matthews’ son, Daniel, and Matthews has to play Jigsaw’s latest game in order to find Daniel before it’s too late.

The effects of listening to K-Fed’s album on 10 are now quite apparent.

The Lowdown

I covered the double dip of the original Saw – Uncut Edition last year (here) and not too long after, went out and watched the sequel. In my original review, I said that despite the third act breakdowns (particularly with Danny Glover’s character), I still fairly enjoyed the film, especially the premise, even though it was seemingly drawn directly from Se7en and Cube. I also noted that Dina Meyer played a detective character that was seemingly in the movie for a couple of seconds for exposition only. At the time I thought it was due to weak storytelling, but after having seen Saw II, and more recently, Saw III, I see now that, planned or not, it served a purpose of setting up this franchise as somewhat of a trilogy. More on that later.

Shawnee’s reaction upon learning she was contractually obligated to do Breakfast of Champions 2."

So now, a year later, the inevitable Saw II double dip, with this Special Edition, is upon us. It’s not difficult to say that, hate it or like it, Saw II is a better film than the original, with much less of the hackneyed plotline that bogged down the first film, especially the third act. There are a couple of things that this film has that appealed to me. One being that I like the fact that this franchise seems to be ushering in or at least being a sizeable part of a return to old school gore in horror films that’s been lacking for the last few years; and the second being that it’s successfully putting in the twist ending that you know is coming, but don’t see what it is. I never saw The Village and I guessed the twist ending when I heard that M. Night had thrown one in. In this film, I knew the twist was coming, but I never saw what it was.

Damn that’s sexy.

The tagline for Saw II is that there will be blood. Well duh. However, the plotline is much more streamlined, without many of the flashbacks that gave the first film a choppy feel in places. And since the first film covered the back story, Saw II gets going right off the bat with some poor schlub that you know is going to get it from one of Jigsaw’s nifty little death gadgets. Then enter Matthews (Wahlberg), who is quickly drawn into Jigsaw’s latest plot involving the trapped people in the house who are sucking in some nerve gas and have to get out before their insides turn into guacamole. Jigsaw gets to be in the film much more than the original and as his plot winds its way along, you get to see Bell portray him as a crafty sumbitch with a method to everything he’s got going on in the film. As for the ensemble, most of their characters are about as deep as a drained pool, but that’s fairly inconsequential insomuch that you know that they’re disposable and are mainly hoping for some tasty endings to their existence. They don’t have the dynamic as the group in the original Cube, but they’re serviceable. Did enjoy seeing Shawnee Smith again, whom I’ve liked since back in the days of Blob.

"Sweet Greasy Jesus, that’s awful! What is it?"
"Hangin’ Tough…"

If you’ve seen all three of the Saw pics, then you know that they each build on each other, and Dina Meyer as Det. Kerry (no last name given strangely enough) gets more involved as the movies go along (a little too involved in the third). The continuity to them is what sets them apart from several other horror franchises, and this movie ties in directly to the previous, which becomes quite apparent at the end. I’m aware that many people think the franchise is garbage: bad writing, bad acting, cheap gore, etc. I can see where they’re coming from to a point. But I dig the movies to the point where I like Bell as Jigsaw and that there’s method to his scheming and that they put in some nice deaths and gore. The films aren’t horror classics, but they’re a decent watch when you’re feeling the need for some dismembering, impaling, and general carnage and mayhem.

"This didn’t exactly help Barry Bonds’ argument about the ‘roids…"

The Package

The film looks great and sounds good, especially when one of the characters goes all Sammy Sosa to the back of another character’s head with a spiked baseball bat. It’s not as dreary as the first film and the transfer is excellent. The two disc set comes in a neat little lenticular case with an x-ray of a skull that’s in the movie. There are two commentaries, one by director Darren Lynn Bousman, production designer David Hackl, and editor Kevin Greutert, and one by by writer/executive producer Leigh Whannell and executive producer James Wan. Bousman tosses in an incoherent little short film he did as a student called "Zombie". There’s also "The Scott Tibbs Documentary" featurette, which is another little oddity, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes that total nearly 50 minutes and focus on the Saw phenomenon, conceiving the sequel, the characters, sets, cinematography, sound design and bloopers.

Turns out stabbing yourself in the back is even more of a bitch…

There’s another quickie making-of titled "The Story Behind the Story" with quick talking head features about the sequel. There’s also "Gregg Hoffman: In Memorium," tribute to producer Gregg Hoffman, who passed away last year at the age of 42. Finally, there’s a maddening little game called “Play Me” where you have to solve riddles in order to get the code to unlock yet another odd little feature called "Billie The Puppet’s life Lessons", which are Saw versions of fairy tales. The features are all available either by themselves or as vignettes to be found in an interactive menu of the booby trap house where the ensemble characters are stuck. There’s also an Easter Egg that takes you to a cool little short of Saw II in 60 Seconds. All in all, it’s not a bad offering, even if it is a double dip.

"Dina? Hey, it’s your agent. Great news, looks like we’re a go for the Johnny Mnemonic sequel…"

7.5 out of 10