James Taylor
Australian Cinema
Tutor: Dr. Garry Gillard
Tutorial Time: Thursday 12:30-2:00




Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography
Due Date: Friday 27th April 2007






Part 1

            Saw II was released in Australia on the 17th of November, 2005.  It was written by an Australian, Leigh Whannell and an American, Darren Lynn Bousman.  Darren Lynn Bousman not only helped co-write Saw II, but he also directed it.  Leigh Whannell is one of the original creators of the Saw franchise, the other being an Australian named James Wan who also directed the first SawSaw II was produced by Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules, and Mark Burg.  Gregg Hoffman so far has produced the first two Saw films, and Koules and Burg would go on to produce the third.  Hoffman was working on the third film but died during the making of it.  Charlie Clouser (ex Nine Inch Nails band member) did the music for Saw II, as well as the other two films.  Saw II was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment.  The film is estimated to have cost $4,000,000 US dollars to make, and it grossed $144,000,000 US dollars world wide at the box offices (Saw II-Wikipedia, 2007).

            The key actors in this film were Donnie Wahlberg (Detective Eric Matthews), Shawnee Smith (Amanda Young), Tobin Bell (Jigsaw).  The other supporting actors in the film were Emmanuelle Vaugier (Addison), Franky G (Xavier), Beverly Mitchell (Laura), Glenn Plummer (Jonas), Lyriq Bent (Rigg), Tim Burd (Obi), John Fallon (Tech), Tony Nappo (Gus), Erik Knudsen (Daniel Matthews) and Dina Meyer (Detective Kerry) (Saw II-Wikipedia, 2007).


Dark Horizons (October 27th 2005).  http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/whannell.php Interview between Paul Fischer and Leigh Whannell.

Internet Movie Data Base-Saw II (2007)  http://imdb.com/title/tt0432348/ Online data base of Saw II.

Movie Web (February 13th 2006).  http://www.movieweb.com/dvd/news/98/10998.php Interview between Movie Web and Darren Lynn Bousman.

Saw the Blog (February 21st 2006).  http://sawtheblog.blogspot.com/2006/02/bloody-disgusting-interviews-darren.html Conversation between Elaine Lamkin and Darren Lynn Bousman.

Saw II-Rotten Tomatoes (2005). http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/saw_ii/.  Reviews of Saw II from various publications.

Saw II-Wikipedia (2007).   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saw_2 Online encyclopaedia article on Saw II

Yahoo Movies (2005).  http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808680125/critic Critics’ comments on Saw II.





Part 2

            Saw II is a horror film that relies on suspense, gore and plot twists in order to engage the audience.  It does this successfully in my personal opinion by the way in which the characters awaken to find themselves trapped inside a room with a group of complete strangers, and as the movie progresses they find that they all have something in common with each other.  The background setting is always dark and dreary, and every scene has this dark tinge to it. The film also uses the element of suspense by diverting your attention from the actual conflict, of the kidnapping of the detective’s son, and on to the minor characters trapped within the house.  Though in the back of your mind you are still trying to figure out why Jigsaw (the serial killer), has brought all these characters to the house, you are still concerned with the well being of Detective Matthews son (Daniel), and if the detective will ever see his son again.  The audience does become frustrated with the way that Detective Matthews becomes enraged with Jigsaw instead of actually listening to what Jigsaw has to say, which at the end turns out to be the demise of the detective.

            The music composed by Charlie Clouser adds a creepy soundtrack to the film, also allowing for a successful suspense build up.  Clouser used to perform with the band Nine Inch Nails, so his music is electronic metal.  This genre fits in well with the Saw movies, as the music is fast paced and is heavy.  The chilling overture that plays when we see Jigsaws victims awaken in their traps.  The first victim in the film (Michael) awakens to find himself in a room with a metal device around his neck, after watching Jigsaws tape he learns that he has a key to unlock the device is inside his face behind his eye.  He is given sixty seconds to complete the task of removing the key from behind his eye and after he fails, the device kills him.  The music that plays while the tape is unveiling the task that the victim must complete is slow and eerie, but once the tape finishes the music becomes fast paced.  The camera shots also become quickly and with the fast paced music, the audience feels a feeling of vertigo.  As the camera spins around Michael, the music builds up to a racing beat and then suddenly stops as the sixty seconds run out and the only sound you hear is the device sealing Michael’s fate.  Without the music this scene would not work as effectively because the music creates a mood for the viewer, and allows for the viewer to engage with what they are viewing.

            Another example of how music plays an important part is when we see Detective Matthews take Jigsaw and drive him to the house were his son supposedly in.  The music is fast and up beat, as the viewer sees not only the journey to the house, but also the cut scenes of the count down to his son’s demise.  Without the fast paced music provided by Clouser, the viewer would not feel the mad panic that Detective Matthews’ is feeling, and therefore would not relate to the situation that the detective is in.  In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho, Bernard Herrmann provides a similar soundtrack except that he uses classical music.  An example of this is when Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) is in the shower and Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) comes in to kill her.  The music is in tune with every knife stroke that Bates takes, and the chilling overture speeds up as we see Crane’s blood go down the drain.

            Lighting is very important in Saw II, as it sets the dreary and desolate mood for the environment in which the story takes place in.  The colours on the walls, the broken lights that flicker on and off, the rust covered traps set out by Jigsaw, and even the pale colours of the clothes of the victims trapped inside the house, are all set out to make the atmosphere bleak.  This technique allows for the viewer to effectively feel no hope for those trapped inside the house.  One could interpret it as the director trying to create a dystopia in order to show the audience the desolate side of humanity.  Also the characters add to this idea of a dystopia by their backgrounds and the way they treat one another. 

            The characters of Saw II were all chosen to be in the house because they were all arrested by the same man, Detective Matthews.  The detectives son, Daniel is also in the house and the other convicted felons are unaware of who he is.  The trapped prisoners need to escape the house quickly as there is a toxic nerve gas that will surely kill them in a matter of hours.  As stated above, the fact that they are all criminals that have committed various crimes, they do show the negative side of humanity.  A uniquely Australian element in Australian films is how we like to see the criminal or the underdog win.  We do want some of the criminals to make it out of the house alive because they appear human and we can relate to them even though the audience knows of the crimes they have committed.  The exception to this is Xavier, mainly because he turns against the people he has been placed with.  When it comes to his test set out by Jigsaw, Xavier is to scramble through a pit of hypodermic needles in order to find a key, due to his drug dealing past.  Instead he throws Amanda into the pit and forces her to dig through the needles for the key.  She fails and he smacks her across the face.  From this point on the audience is made to dislike Xavier more and more by the way he kills the group guide or leader (Jonas), to the way he begins hunting down each individual to retrieve a number that is inked on the neck of all the victims.

            Those trapped inside the house are not the only characters that portray a negative side of society.  When we see Detective Matthews and his rage towards Jigsaw, the audience observes how anger and rage cloud ones mind.  Jigsaw asks Detective Matthews to play a game, and all Matthews has to do is sit and talk to Jigsaw.  Matthews does this until the end when he loses his temper and physically beats Jigsaw, and demands that Jigsaw takes him to his son.  The outcome is that we find that Jigsaw was not lying, all Matthews had to do was sit and wait and he would get his son back.  Unfortunately for Matthews Jigsaw leads him to the house where hours earlier the game set out for the convicted criminals had been played, and Matthews is trapped inside the same room that Adam and Dr. Gordon found themselves in the original Saw film.  Jigsaw assumed that Detective Matthews could not wait to find his son safe and sound in the very room they had been sitting and waiting in, as he set up a new trap for Matthews at the house, which we see the outcome of in Saw III.

            Jigsaw is an intelligent individual, and is a good judge of character.  He sets out games that he knows his “victims” will play right into.  Though he puts people in situations where there is a high chance that they will die in some horrible way, he does give them a choice “live or die.”  Technically he does not kill anyone, and as he says later in Saw III, he “despises murderers.”  In Saw II, Jigsaw describes to Detective Matthews that he has “wiped the slate clean” for all of the victims in the house.  This can be interpreted as they have been given a new start in life, and everything that happens after they get out of the house is a step forward in life.  The audience does look at Jigsaw as a killer, but when you learn later in the movie about what happened to him with his discovery of cancer, his serious car crash, and how he was reborn, the audience can some what understand what Jigsaw is trying to show humanity.  Also it is important to note how all the victims in all three movies are some how intertwined or related.  All their stories come together and are all part of Jigsaw’s game.

            Amanda is the only person to ever survive one of Jigsaw’s games.  In the first Saw the audience sees how she has to dig through a paralysed person’s stomach to find a key that will unlock the medieval device that is around her head.  She does this quickly, unlocks the device and is free to walk out.  When we see her in the house in Saw II, we are unaware that she is the same girl who got a way until the plot unfolds later on in the film.  The audience is then hit with a major plot twist when they learn that after surviving Jigsaw’s game, she begins to work for him and continue on his legacy. 

At the end of Saw II, we are left with a nearly dead Jigsaw sitting in the car that Detective Matthews drove to the house in.  Amanda goes to aid him and the audience is left with a cliff hanger ending which we assume means that Amanda will go on to continue what Jigsaw has started.  The meaning that one could interpret from this is how Jigsaw’s games actually work.  They do change a person for the better, and the person does know what it feels to be alive.  Amanda used to be a junkie and after the game that Jigsaw sets out for her she gives up the habit.  Though she becomes a killer and Jigsaw’s apprentice, we still acknowledge the impact Jigsaw must have had on her life that she changed it.

            When looking at Saw II, we can see how effective the techniques that Bousman and Whannell created when writing the script, in making the film a thrilling horror film.  The lighting, the colours, the characters, the ghastly traps, the chilling overture of the music and the heart pounding suspense, all make Saw II a successful Australian horror film.  Movie critics had mixed reviews about this film.  Some gave it great praise, Frank Scheck from Hollywood Reporter said that Saw II will “far outshine the pedestrian mayhem on display in the horror glut” (Yahoo Movies, 2005).  This is a positive review saying that Saw II pushed the boundaries of the current horror genre, but as stated before there were a lot of negative criticism for the film.  E! Online went as far as saying that “this Saw lacks teeth” (Yahoo Movies, 2005), and Wesley Morris from Boston Globe said that the film, “makes for dreadful movie going” (Yahoo Movies, 2005). 

            Critics were not the only ones who gave Saw II mixed reviews, the fans also had vastly different opinions on the film.  The online internet movie data base (IMDB), has mixed reviews from fans.  A comment posted by stupidmunk states that Saw II makes a, “quantum leap in horror films” (IMDB-Saw II, 2007).  He/she goes on to state that from the opening scene till the end the audience is captivated by what they see and that afterwards are left feeling chills and unease.  But not all fans were pleased with this sequel.  A user posting as pirateonweekends went as far as to say that, “if you’ve seen the first one, you will be absolutely disappointed” (IMDB-Saw II, 2007).  The user then goes on to break down the film saying that it is flawed with the way that it is unbelievable that Jigsaw, who is dying of cancer, could put in so much work in setting up the traps in this film.

            Saw II written by Australian Leigh Whannell and American Darren Lynn Bousman in 2005, is part two in the Australian horror series.  The series was created by Whannell and his class mate, James Wan, and although Wan did not work on Saw II, the characters and themes were partly his.  This film pushes the boundaries of horror films today, providing the audience with gore, suspense and chilling plot twists.  Thought was met with mixed reviews from both critics and fans; the film was still a success and took $144,000,000 US dollars while it was in the cinemas.