The next big horror franchise
October 27, 2005
Silence Of The Lambs
, one part
Ten Little Indians
and still carrying a lasting dosage of
reveals a horror franchise to be reckoned with. A superior grade of actors and a virtuosic application of gore make the sequel more entertaining than the original even if the movie bogs down in its own Karo syrup blood and nebulous plot excursions. A group of eight strangers attempt to escape from a sealed house ingeniously booby-trapped by serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) while Detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg—
The Sixth Sense
) attempts to rescue his teen son Daniel (Eirk Knudsen) from the trapped victims.
In the opening sequence, a man sits with a spring-loaded Venus flytrap device attached to his head as he watches a videotape of his eye being implanted with a key to the contraption. Jigsaw taunts the man via intercom to slice open his eye and extract the key that will free him before the timed device impales his skull with innumerable spikes. The sequence gives a crucial clue to the anxious situation that the audience will be exposed to for the remainder of the increasingly gory thrill-ride.
Career Detective Mason has an argument with his son that sets up the itching guilt that festers in him when he discovers that Daniel is among Jigsaw's hostages. In a bold maneuver to get a leg up on their horror savvy audience, the filmmakers allow Mason and his S.W.A.T. team to uncover Jigsaw's whereabouts and come face to face with our de facto Hannibal Lechter inside his hellish crack house lair.
But the cops get much more than they bargained for because the terminally ill Jigsaw is running a live video feed from cameras inside the secured house where his victims run amok as poisonous gas creeps into their bodies. It's through this clever plot device that Jigsaw is able to command his interrogator's attention and personally torment Detective Mason whose sins of planting evidence and physically abusing prisoners serve as Jigsaw's motivation for this particular parlay.
Music video veteran Darren Lynn Bousman co-wrote the script for
with Leigh Whannell (screenwriter and actor for
) and gets a more consistent level of performance from the actors than director James Wan achieved on the first movie. Although
is Bousman's feature film debut, the young director exhibits and facility for pacing and tone that enables the audience to trust him. Where a director like Rob Zombie alienates his audience, Bousman guides you like a master of ceremonies through a carefully designed exhibition of terror.
The horror elements of the
franchise are based on key visceral ingredients of claustrophobia, inevitable death and a medieval fascination with mangled flesh and dismemberment. Nevertheless, it works against the audience's potential for empathy that the victims here are ex-cons (however innocent), except for the boy protagonist who barely exerts any personality traits other than as a scared witness to unspeakable horrors.
films are members of an ilk of extreme horror movies like
where victims are subjected to a nihilistic brand of brutal intimidation and fear. But the
films have a presentational quality mixed with a kind of winking humor.
The audience is thrown into a series of enclosed environments where the victims are suffering the worst kind of physical and mental abuse imaginable. We step into the shoes of a helpless prisoner whose crimes could never match the kind of punishment we watch them endure.
Our sense of fear and empathy is allowed to surge up inside us and challenge our expectations. In other words, there's a safety net built into this particular formula of terrorizing thrills. But that still doesn't mean you should take kids.
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