Saw II

Saw II ★★★½

"You see, the knowledge of death changes everything. If I were to tell you the exact date and time of your own death, it would shatter your world completely. I know."

The groundwork was certainly established in the first film, but I think it's the great sequel that confirms the escape room vibes before it even became a craze. As a professor, I'd show this film to my classes before assigning them dreaded group work. Not only does Tobin Bell's iconic John "Jigsaw" Kramer come into the forefront here—the essential presence piece of this franchises puzzle like Lin Shaye in Insidious—with his very literal instructions and hints, but also the clashing heads trapped group dynamic at play. They're all present for attendance: impatient jock, uppity sorority girl, clueless freshman, seasoned voice of reason, sus juve, the quiet pure one, lowkey brains alternative chick, etc. *Jigsaw always gives you both a clear and defined chance to survive at the end of the day, he also crafts his coop traps and courses to be played as they are intended to be, cooperatively. It's like a final exam or terms and contracts agreement where they include a trick shortcut answer/task within the instructions that almost every person skips. 9/10 times, putting a group of strangers together to work cooperatively in a timed scenario is going to be not to dissimilar (minus all the bloodshed). 

While Saw has the better narrative and twist, I think Saw II actually has better direction, quicker pacing,  and more rewatchability—whether it be because I lowkey enjoy new kid on the block Donnie Wahlberg or because of its more locked-escape-room thriller setting. This entry definitely benefitted from a rewatch for me, as I could pick up way more hints that Jigsaw drops along the way, with various instances of swiping right under characters' noses. I do think the director could cool it on the constant—once is cool, twice is forced, thrice is overkill—whip pan transitions. I am glad he's the one selected to helm Spiral, although it would have been cool to see Whannell take a jab like he did in the Insidious franchise.

PS: The brute dbag has always been one of my most hated characters, and that sentiment still stands. 


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