IHAO on ... Saw II

Saw may have been created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, but the man who really made Saw what it is is director Darren Lynn Bousman.  He created a visual style that would be repeated in the rest of the Saw films.  Leigh Whannell (I spelled it wrong last review, I apologize) helped do rewrites for a script Bousman had already written, trying to make it more Saw-like.  And it ... almost works.

So what's the plot here?  Well, we are a good amount of time after the events of the first film, and following another cop, played by Donnie Walberg.  He finds himself confronting Jigsaw, who has setup a much larger trap than we saw before: eight people locked into a boarded up and steel gated house, with poison running through the air vents, having to do traps to survive.  One of the eight people is Walberg's son.  And that's our dual storytelling: the house, which is a series of games, and the test, which is Walberg confronting Jigsaw, face to face.

The film is incredibly well made from a technical standpoint.  All those little quibbles I had last time about the make-up, lighting, pacing, direction of actors, all of that is perfectly handled here by Bousman.  Bousman is a very detail and visually oriented director, and he fills his movies with small clues and hints of the future, foreshadowing a lot of things and really making the film a delight to watch and rewatch as you pick up more and more details.  Tobin Bell, the actor who plays Jigsaw, also gets to do some nice acting in this film, more than he did last time when he was barely in it.  Walberg is also no slough, really working hard with some great moments.

I just know there's a but coming ... 

But there is a problem with the script.  With so many characters, a lot was cut or trimmed, making all the characters in the house ... meaningless, basically, besides just a small handful.  They didn't have much to do but whine and yell at each other, they didn't get to even speak much because all they did was listen to tapes and participate in the "games."  The Walberg/Bell scenes had some nice moments but they too felt a little off.  You can really tell that this was a non-Saw script changed to be a Saw sequel.

All that said, this is an enjoyable film.  It has some flaws, just like the last one, but Bousman does such a good job pacing the film and moving it forward that it really helps make the film more likable.  Some of the characters are fantastic, in a silly two-dimensional kind of way.  And the gore, much like the last one, is still relatively minor.  I mean, yeah, there's some gorier stuff and you see more blood, but none of it is in your face, or gross, or just there for gore's sake.  It is tasteful, and a very minor aspect of the film.

So far, this one is my favorite.  But man, if only I could get the great writing of the first film and the superior direction of this one, and then cram them together.  Hmm ... (this is obviously a leading statement, as the next film in fact does that exact thing ... but is it any good? ... or at least as good as I was hoping? ... Hmmm ... (Yup, another leading question.  This time, you have to wait for the answer.  That review is next week!))

Grade: B+

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