Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
November 2005

If you Saw one, you Saw `em all

Saw II
Lions Gate Films
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay: Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Lyriq Bent, Erik Knudsen and Franky G
Rated R/1 hour, 33 minutes
Opened Oct. 28, 2005
(out of four)

It's early, but so far I've reviewed three films for IGMS, and we're 0-for-3. There are plenty of quality sci-fi, fantasy and horror flicks out there, but it seems we're in a bit of a dry spell.

However, some fine print is warranted here. There are those who enjoyed by last year's surprise indie horror hit, Saw. I was not one of those people. I found it too phony for words, one of those movies that is trying way, way, way too hard to be edgy and foul and SHOCKING, a movie that embraced repulsiveness for the sheer sake of doing so. I love a good horror movie, but Saw was not one of them. It was also so derivative, they might as well have called it SE7EN Silent Lambs.

But that said, anyone who was impressed with the original will probably enjoy Saw II as well, because it's pretty much the same kind of thing as the last time around. Jigsaw is back to his nasty ways, only this time the narrative takes a bit of a different approach. Half of this sequel is the same basic premise as the original, only the stakes are raised. Instead of two people imprisoned in a dank bathroom, there are seven people imprisoned in a dank, rundown house. They are slowly breathing in a deadly nerve agent, and the antidote is hidden somewhere in the house!

Meanwhile, that storyline is cross-cut with that of Det. Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg), who, along with a S.W.A.T. team, has found Jigsaw, only to become a pawn in his evil little scheme. Mason's son, you see, is one of the seven trapped in the house. Cue dramatic music.

The film goes back and forth between the two stories--theoretically creating dramatic tension as the clock ticks down toward certain death--and Wahlberg does an admirable job with the material he's given. You know, it's almost as if he's played a cop before.

Some day, he should get his own underrated TV show called Boomtown.

Anyway, let's not kid ourselves...the plot exists in order to show very pretty people get killed in very grisly ways in as much gory detail as possible. And in that regard, it doesn't disappoint. The film's tagline is "Oh yes, there will be blood." The tagline is absolutely correct--there is blood and plenty of it.

Not that that's a problem, mind you. The problem is that all the proceedings are just so uninspired. The aforementioned SE7EN was a great movie because it kept itself grounded just to the left of reality--motivations were real, not just plot contrivances, and the often-nauseous subject matter existed for a reason. SE7EN and Saw had plenty of similarities, plot-wise, except the former was intelligent and original, while the latter just desperately wished it were SE7EN.

The budding Saw franchise is just a fantasy that takes itself way too seriously. It's one thing for the antagonist serial killer to buy into this whole "torturer-as-compassionate savior" nonsense, but the filmmakers expect the audience to buy into it, too. Both the original and its sequel are guilty of not only delusions of grandeur, but delusions of meaning and genuineness. How can a movie like this actually take itself as seriously as it does?

That is this film's biggest weakness of all. The filmmakers certainly don't pull any punches, but they seem to think this all actually has a point. There is virtually no humor to be found--unless, of course, it's unintentional, like Cary Elwes' ridiculously loony performance in the first one.

I'm also quite convinced that just about anyone could have made this movie. Darren Lynn Bousman takes over for the director of the original, James Wan, but you really can't tell the difference. Bousman is a relative newcomer and I know precious little about him, but he was once a "honey wagon attendant" for The X-Files, so that's got to count for something.

Of course, maybe such an easy-to-duplicate formula works in the series' favor. I can see the Saw franchise going on for years to come, simply because it's a low economic risk and has a built-in audience. All you need for production value is a dark, grimy basement and/or bathroom and/or abandoned house, a cheap C-list cast and a few gory gimmicks, and you're all set. Oh yeah, and try to be as SHOCKING as possible.

But just as Saw II is just as bad as the first, one can expect any subsequent sequels to be more of the same dreck.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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