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Quick sequel maintains the ‘Saw’ legacy

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Sequels are hard to make. Either they have to live up to the success of the first one, or overcome its many shortcomings.

Some sequels have managed to surpass their predecessor, such as “The Empire Strikes Back.” Others, such as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Matrix Revolutions,” lost what made the original a hit.

The original “Saw,” shot on a budget vastly smaller than typical theater fare, was a wild success due to its imagination and innovative concepts. In a market saturated with slasher films and teenage horror movies, “Saw” was a fresh diversion for audiences.

It was so successful that a sequel was greenlighted almost immediately, without the original director or writers. Fans of the original were worried about the obvious monetary motivation for the creation of a sequel, with the projected release date being less than a year after the originals.

The worry proved without warrant however, as “Saw II” lives up to the spirit of its predecessor.

For those who have not seen the original “Saw,” the basic plot isn’t too hard to get into. A killer titled “Jigsaw” is on the loose, placing people within elaborate deathtraps. Usually involving some form of self-sacrifice or mutilation, these demented games usually prove deadly for their contestants.

“Saw II” picks up exactly where the original leaves off, with Jigsaw still at large and the cops closing in. Early into the movie, the cops finally catch up to Jigsaw and place him in custody.

However, it is discovered that the son of one of the Detectives, played by Donnie Wahlberg, is in Jigsaw’s custody. It is then up to the Detective to play Jigsaw’s game, with his sun’s life at stake.

The son has been inserted into a house filled with macabre traps along with a group of ex-cons, and a timer reveals that a poison will soon kill them all. All of the events that unfold within the house are broadcast onto a series of monitors within Jigsaw’s base of operations, allowing the cops to watch the activities.

Unlike most horror movies, the characters within “Saw II” behave in an almost realistic fashion and are easily identifiable. One cannot but help feel empathy over the Detective’s plight as he watches his son face danger from a television set.

Jigsaw, once again played by Tobin Bell, is eerily realistic in a disturbing way. Taking Darwinian theory to an extreme, Jigsaw’s motivations and actions all tie together in a twisted fashion at the shocking conclusion of the film.

The special features prove light on the DVD however. The original “Saw” received a special edition only when the sequel was released, with the original DVD being fairly barebones. This promises to hold true with “Saw II.”

Basically a series of informative documentaries on behind the scene information, the special features illuminate how the special effects were completed. Featuring some creativity on the part of the special effects crew, they are worth watching but don’t add too much to the film.

With a “Saw III” looming on the horizon, also scheduled with a mere year for production, “Saw II” should be high on any horror fan’s list. It’s a gory, edgy trip that promises to stick in the minds of viewers long after the credits roll.