2012 Film Challenge #34 - Saw II

I am a massive fan of horror films, and yet I am clearly not part of the target audience for the Saw series.

Does that say anything about anything? Probably not.

They're just terrible, the Saw films. Just terrible.

And I know that by saying this I'm retreading ground that has doubtlessly been tread billions of times since the films started getting green-lit with alarming frequency, but their complete lack of redeeming features has absolutely nothing to do with the abhorrent violence by which the series defines itself.

Saw films are dull, overproduced, tired, hackneyed, unforgivably boring, poorly written and edited with such a crippling lack of imagination that it comes across as a bloated insult to the intelligence of anybody who demands more from their horror than a grand parade of gut-wrenching mutilation.

I'm often disturbed by violence onscreen, but I'd struggle to identify a moment where I've ever been offended by it. So, yes, job done: the horrible, almost gleefully elaborate “traps” and “games” in the Saw films do indeed disturb, but by no means do I find any of it offensive.

I'm no prude – I won't let them win by gloating that their films must have had the desired effect to have elicited such a negative reaction. For beyond the atrocity exhibition, no matter how hard they try, the Saw films are completely lacking in depth and substance.

They're therefore perfectly worthy of being labelled as “torture porn”, as there's almost nothing else to them than tired machinations designed to get people killed in sickeningly creative ways.

And yet they try so very, very hard to be taken seriously – to give their characters dimensions, motivations. All to no avail, though. They fail so hard in this effect that every time they pause to add something in the way of backstory, all they really do is break the pace of an already plodding “story”.

Case in point: Saw II, the plot of which revolves around a house filled with nerve gas from which a group of ne’er-do-wells must escape.

I understand that the success of the first Saw film caused for the title to be bolted on to an existing script, and my word does it show.

Without all the Saw tropes, this could have made for a wonderfully claustrophobic thriller – an ultraviolent version of the final third of Home Alone.

Instead, though, it's shoved face-first into a dreary world of ridiculous conceit and pretentious musings.

Few things annoy me more onscreen than self-righteous serial killers. It's such a depressing cliché that I find myself snarling every time one takes to the stage and starts monologuing.

The Jigsaw Killer must be the worst of the lot. He tries so hard to be deep, eloquent, terrifying – and oh look, he's dying of cancer! What an enthralling and poignant shade of grey – but no. Instead he doesn't steal any scene in which he appears. Rather, he opens his wan little maw and vomits all over it.

How little understanding must the makers of this have had of pacing, tone and mood to so frequently cut away from the action to delve into the backstory – apparently improvised on the spot – of a ridiculous cipher about which most people couldn't care less?

As this blog proves, I can find enjoyment in most anything I sit down to watch. Saw II, though, was irredeemable. My attention kept drifting to the walls of our living room – which were genuinely more fascinating, and the paint was already dry.

Still. At least I can now say that I've probably already seen the worst film I'll watch this year.

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