Game Corner: Saw (Xbox 360)

Released: October 2009
Developer: Zombie Studios
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 3

The Background:
In 2004, writer Leigh Wannell and director James Wan brought us Saw, a psychological horror film in which two men find themselves trapped in a grimy bathroom, victims of the twisted John Kramer, also known as the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), and forced to play a demented game of survival where one must die or both must cut through their feet to escape their shackles. Saw was a surprise success; produced on a budget of $1.2 million, it grossed over $100 million at the box office, making it (at the time) the most profitable horror film in about eight years and kick-starting not only an ongoing horror franchise but also inspiring a whole other sub-genre of horror cinema, the “torture porn” genre. By 2009, Saw’s success had translated into six sequels that continued the story, each of varying quality. This, apparently, was the perfect time to capitalise on the franchise’s success with a puzzle-based, quasi-survival/horror videogame. While the game was initially announced in 2006, development stalled somewhat despite the creators of the franchise working closely on the game’s narrative, aesthetics, and gameplay elements. Konami eventually took over the production of the game, viewing it as a potential spiritual successor to their Silent Hill (Various, 1999 to 2012) franchise; however, while the game did well enough to get a sequel in 2010, it received little more than average to mediocre reviews at the time of release.

The Plot:
Disgraced police detective David Tapp, who ran afoul of Jigsaw in the first Saw movie, finds himself trapped in a former mental asylum at the mercy of the Jigsaw Killer. Forced to confront his mistakes and the demons of his past, he must solve a series of gruesome traps and puzzles in an attempt to earn his freedom.

Saw is a third-person action/puzzle game with an emphasis on puzzle-solving, collecting items, and evading or smartly dispatching of a few foes similar to other survival/horror titles. Players are put into the shoes of a familiar character from the franchise who looks and acts absolutely nothing like the character as portrayed by Danny Glover; here, Tapp is far from the broken, semi-insane former cop with a  grouchy voice thanks to a scar across his throat and is, instead, more like a desperate, guilt-ridden cop.

Former detective Tapp finds himself trapped in one of Jigsaw’s demented “games”.

The game’s story is pretty standard Saw fare; Tapp must try to survive the asylum, which is filled with traps and other victims looking to kill him, solving puzzles and freeing victims chosen specifically to test Tapp’s morals and conscious. Unlike in the movies, though, you must past these tests and free these victims; they then promptly flee through means apparently unavailable to you and you continue on, learning a bit more about Tapp’s character and backstory as you go through Jigsaw’s cryptic taunts, audio tapes, and various documents and clippings found strewn throughout the asylum. However, while this does a lot to flesh out the Saw world beyond the movies and the game does a decent job at recreating the aesthetics of its source material, it’s tough to really enjoy it since Tapp controls like a lump of clay; slow, sluggish, and awkward, your options for exploration and combat are made needlessly complicated thanks to the game’s janky, tank-like controls (Tapp literally walks in reverse when you could back on the analogue stick) that see you jogging around the asylum at a listless pace as though the ground is made of sticky mud. Collision issues will see you sometimes clip into the environment or clip onto of it (the closest Tapp ever gets to jumping) and it can be difficult to navigate thanks to the grey, nondescript surroundings and next-to-useless map.

If you have to choose a light source, always choose the flashlight!

In true Saw fashion, your field of view is limited thanks to ambient, broken lighting, dark corners, and the asylum being little more than a blood, trap, and debris-strewn environment. To help with your navigation, you can acquire three different times to light your way; a lighter (which lights the immediate area a little bit, can cause certain barrels to explode, and goes out when you move too fast), a camera (which illuminates the immediate area in a burst of light but for such a brief period that it’s next to useless), and a flashlight (easily the best source of light as it lights up the largest area and is far more reliable). You can to manually activate these with the Y button, and have to do so every time you restart from a death, but often automatically lose them as the story progresses. Although Jigsaw saved him from the bullet that clearly killed him in the first movie, Tapp must still be feeling the effects as he’s quite a fragile man. A few blows from enemies will send him crumbling to the floor like a ragdoll, you need to constantly be alert from shards of broken glass that will drain your health, and he constantly runs afoul of Jigsaw’s many booby traps scattered throughout the asylum. If you don’t disarm the traps, you’ll get your head blown off, and if you can’t keep your balance you’ll plunge to your death at numerous points.

Combat is something you’ll come to dread in Saw thanks to the game’s sluggish controls.

Luckily, there’s a generous autosave feature and you can simply retry from your last checkpoint and Tapp can pick up bandages, a sewing kit, or bottles of water, or water fountains to instantly refill his health or carry around five syringes to heal your wounds. Combat, however, is a diabolical affair; luckily, there aren’t many enemies to engage with and they usually come at you one at a time because Tapp is a poor fighter in every sense of the word. Tapp can punch with his fists, swing destructible weapons, or shoot at enemies with limited ammo, or lure his enemies into traps to dispatch of them but you better be well prepared for when enemies come at you as they generally attack faster than you can “block” or “dodge” and faster than you cans wing, too. It also doesn’t help that the camera zooms in and kind of freaks out a bit when enemies appear, making it way too easy for you to get trapped in the environment or stuck behind a door or some piece of scenery. Most enemies go down pretty easily, which is helpful, and you can knock them down to finish them off or use the proximity alarms on their collars to blow their heads off but, more often than not, you’ll be trying to land a few strikes as quickly as possible and then backing away to clear some room. Often, I found fleeing from enemies caused them to either stand around aimlessly or despawn completely, which can be helpful, and you’ll often come across a number of enemies fighting with each other so you can sneak past or take care of whoever’s left.

Tapp must endure horrific injuries and situations to progress further.

In place of fighting hoards of enemies, you’ll be tasked with exploring your surroundings (carefully, to Jigsaw’s many instant-death traps), solving a few rudimentary puzzles before tackling Jigsaw’s more gruesome “games”. These range from shoving your hand into barrels of acid or toilet bowls fill of syringes to grab keys, attaching different-sized gears to access better weapons, pressing A, X, B, and Y at the right time or aligning certain screws to unlock doors and such, and (my personal favourite) aligning pipes to stop Tapp being gassed to death. Most of the time, solving these leads you to items and things of interest but you’ll also have to endure a few timed puzzles to progress further; these involve moving racks of pig carcasses before you freeze to death, shutting off steam valves, finding fuses to open doors of shut off electrified floors, bashing down weak walls and slipping through, trying not to get crushed to death, and rewiring fuse boxes.

Saw‘s puzzles are so commonplace that they quickly outstay their welcome.

While many of these puzzles are found throughout the game, some see you battling against the clock; linger too long and you’ll be caught in an explosion, which does help add to the tension and immersion of the videogame but the puzzles are always the same at varying levels of difficulty, meaning it all gets very monotonous very quickly. You’ll also often be tasked with using and exploring your environment to find clues, such as codes and keys for doors or other items to unlock sealed doors, which is very much in keeping with the movies but, again, these generally amount to you visiting a new area (that looks strikingly similar to other areas of the game), maybe navigating a few traps or variations of these same puzzles, dispatching the odd enemy or two, and then getting back to where you need to be. It’s not massively difficult since you pretty much see everything the game has to offer within the first hour or so and it’s not too difficult to find your way around, which is helpful as the game’s map is absolutely rubbish.

Graphics and Sound:
While Saw does a pretty good job of emulating the dismal, gritty, dank visual style of many of the Saw movies, in particular the first three films, and the environments look suitably “lived-in” and dangerous, the game really doesn’t look all that great. Character models are hopelessly low quality, using none of the voices or likenesses of any of the actors save for Tobin Bell, and resemble little more than flailing puppets at times. Cutscenes are little more than simplistic cutaways from the main action and all utilise the in-game graphics and models which, while giving the game come consistency and, again, aligning very closely with the fast-paced, frantic cuts of the movies, serve to only emphasise how lacklustre and mediocre the game looks.

As great as it is to see, and hear, Tobin Bell, Saw‘s graphics aren’t up to much.

Where the game excels, as with the movies, is in its depiction of graphic and gruesome death traps and the gravelly, alluring tones of Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw. Thanks to Bell providing near-constant commentary throughout the game, there’s a continual feeling of dread and suspense as you wonder what is waiting around the next corner or in the next area. While many of the puzzles do outstay their welcome, they’re always punctuated by Bell’s distinct voice and his presence definitely elevates the quality of the game…but not quite enough to ignore its many failings.

Enemies and Bosses:
Tapp isn’t alone in the asylum; he’s been trapped with other victims of Jigsaw’s game, all of whom have been told their only way to freedom is to kill Tapp and retrieve a key from his body. These enemies are few and far between but do have some variations; some have the reverse bear trap on their head, some have metal boxes over their heads, others wield weapons, some have explosives attached to their wrists or shotgun neck braces on that will explode you if you don’t keep your distance, and some toss Molotov cocktails at you. the fact that they can easily attack you without mercy and either kill you outright or knock you to your death makes even the game’s standard enemies a tough obstacle to overcome as you need to be well-prepared before engaging in combat, which helps make every enemy a meaningful encounter but also frustrating thanks to the game’s janky camera, collision detection, and combat controls.

The Pighead fight is the closest thing Saw gets to a traditional “boss” battle.

In terms of actual bosses, though, Saw only really has one encounter that could be deemed as a true “Boss battle”; as you progress through the story, you’ll catch sight of the infamous Pighead, an apprentice of Jigsaw, who haunts the asylum, trapping others in death traps and stacking the odds against Tapp. Eventually, you’ll have to battle the Pig head to get a key to progress; armed with a nail bat, Pighead can be a formidable foe but it’s just as easy to rush past him and lure him into a metal cage, lock him in, and then activate a switch to fry his ass alive.

Amanda’s trap is one of the most tedious aspects of the entire game…and it’s only the first one!

In place of traditional boss battles, each chapter of the game ends with Tapp having to same Jigsaw’s victims from death traps; the first of these is another familiar name (though not a familiar face), Amanda Young, and straight away this trap sets the tone for how annoying Saw can be. Amanda and Tapp are both strapped into a machine and the player must cause red or blue antidotes to correctly drop to the left and right, respectively, using the shoulder buttons. This can be a tedious task as it’s not very clear how to do this and you only get about three chances to make a mistake before you fail and must retry from the beginning. The trap’s difficulty spikes in the second stage where you’ll have to sometimes guide two blues and two reds to the same pathway, which means a lot of forward planning and trial and error.

Many of the games are simply harder versions of Saw‘s regular puzzles.

To rescue Melissa Sing, you’ll have to solve three magnetic maze puzzles before she’s chopped to pieces. If you had one of these games as a kid, this trap isn’t too difficult, especially compared to the previous two traps, but it can be tricky to find a safe path to the spiral symbol that is your goal as it’s often not possible to avoid moving over an x strike and speeding up the threat to Melissa’s life. Three of the victims require you to solve increasingly-difficult variations on common puzzles found throughout the game; the gear puzzle, the fuse box puzzle, and the pipe dial puzzles. How difficult you find these traps will depend on your skill at solving these different puzzles but the ones found in these traps are of considerable difficulty, at times, thanks to being much more complex than those you’ll find elsewhere in the game. While they aren’t massively difficult, it can be tricky to remember the order and sequence needed to quickly solve each part and move on to the next mini game before time runs out; it also doesn’t help that the game constantly cuts away from the mini game so you can see the victim suffering further or edging closer to death the longer you take.

The final test is a quetsion of matching images, which are always randomised for extra frustration.

The final victim can only be freed by matching up items on television screens; shotgun shells must match with a shotgun, for example, and a severed foot with a saw. While this isn’t as difficult or as stress-inducing as some of the other traps, it is frustrating as you only get some many chances to make mistakes and the images are randomised with each retry, making it a tedious game of trail, error, and luck as you’re all-but-guaranteed to make at least one mistake when solving this puzzle. Once you complete this test, though, the final test is yours as you must choose between two doors, “Freedom” and “Truth”, with each one leading to a suitably bleak ending for Tapp and the game in general.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Tapp certainly has the odds against him; in keeping with the game’s close adherence to the source material, you won’t find anything helpful like shields or speed-ups here. Instead, you must explore and solve puzzles and search everywhere for health-restoring items or weapons. Though he can bash enemy’s heads in with his bare fists, Tapp isn’t much of a pugilist so it’s best to grab one of the many weapons found throughout he asylum; you can grab steel pipes, crowbars, shovels, bottles (and use your lighter to create a Molotov cocktail and set enemies alight), table legs, hatchets, mannequin arms, and nail bats to break and bludgeon over your enemy’s skulls.

Use a gun, a variety of bombs, or re-wire Jigsaw’s traps to tip the odds in your favour.

These weapons will break apart the more you use them but, luckily, there’s often another weapon nearby or to be retrieved from a downed enemy. You can also obtain a revolver at a couple of points; you only get six shots, though, so it’s best to sue this weapon wisely as it’ll pretty much kill any enemy (bar Pighead) in one shot. You’re also able to cobble together traps of your own to stun, gas, and explode enemies though I found this more cumbersome and annoying than useful; it’s far more useful to simply rearm one of Jigsaw’s existing traps to blow or fry enemies away quickly and efficiently.

Additional Features:
Saw comes with forty-six Achievements for you to earn; many of these are can’t be missed as long as you complete the game’s story mode while others require you to defeat a certain number of enemies, use every weapon in the game, and unlock a certain number of doors. They’re not especially difficult to get in one playthrough and you can always load up a previous chapter to get any you’ve missed by killing the same enemy over and over again. Although Saw comes with two difficulty modes, there’s no real reason to play the harder difficulty as there’s no Achievement tied to it. You can also go into the “Features” menu to view character, environment, prop, and trap concept art, if you like that sort of thing, but that’s about it.

The Summary:
I am a big fan of the Saw franchise; I find the character of Jigsaw intriguing and fascinating because of how skewed and warped his motivations and philosophies are and the gruesome death traps make for some of the most horrific pieces of horror cinema in recent memory. Sadly, while Saw does go to a great deal of effort to match and recreate the look, feel, and atmosphere of the movies it is based on and part of, it fails to really hold the attention for too long.

All the gore and aesthetic fidelity to the movies can’t make up for Saw‘s many flaws.

The game is average, at best, and a frustrating mess at worst; with a dodgy camera, janky controls, wonky physics, and a piss-poor combat system, Saw could have been a tense and atmospheric survival/horror game with a focus on numerous increasingly tough, imaginative puzzles but is, instead, an uninspiring experience that is over pretty quickly, adds little to the lore, and requires very little from you other than battling past the game’s screwy controls and mastering a handful of different puzzles until you reach which depressing ending you choose to indulge.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


Did you ever play Saw; if so…why, and what did you think of it? Did you struggle with the game’s presentation and gameplay or did you actually enjoy it for what it was? Are you a fan of the Saw franchise? Which of the films do you think is the best, or how would you rank the movies? Whatever you think about Saw, drop a comment below.

10 FTW: Under-Rated Sequels


Sequels are funny things; you have to get the balance just right between providing everything people enjoyed about the first moving but expanding upon the plot and characters in a natural way. If it’s difficult for a lot of sequels to get this right, it’s even harder for third, fourth, or other sequential entries to hit the mark.

It’s not easy to make a sequel that surpasses the original.

There’s a few prime examples of sequels done right (Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991), and The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) spring to mind as some near-undisputed examples of sequels that were everything their predecessor was and more) and even fewer examples of completely perfect movie trilogies as most stumble by the third entry due to one reason or another. I can’t tell you, though, how often I’ve seen people talk shit about some sequels that are actually not that bad at all and, arguably, criminally under-rated. When movies, comics, and videogames produce remakes or other ancillary media based on these franchises, they either always complete ignore these films or openly criticise them for absolutely no reason. Today, I’m going to shed some light on ten under-rated sequels and, hopefully, try to show why they’re actually not as bad as you might think…

10 Saw II (Bousman, 2005)

While the Saw (Various, 2004 to present) noticeably dipped in quality as Lionsgate milked the series for all its worth with sequel after sequel after sequel (most of which were actually interquels as they foolishly killed off John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) way too early in the series), I feel like a lot of people don’t give Saw II enough credit. Saw (Wan, 2004) was an intense, terrifying experience that saw two people trapped in a room with the only option of escape being death or sawing a foot off with a rusty hacksaw. It kick-started a whole “torture porn” sub-genre of horror, despite most of its terror coming from the horrific situations rather than copious amounts of gore. Saw II, however, put the focus on Jigsaw, who was an almost mythic figure in the first movie and wasn’t fully revealed until the film’s dramatic conclusion. Here, we delve deep into his motivations for putting people through his gruesome “tests” and this film is a worthwhile watch simply for the subtle menace exuded by Tobin Bell.

Saw II has some gruesome traps.

Not only that, Saw II ramps up the gore and the desperation by having seven shady individuals all infected with a deadly, slow-acting nerve agent and trapped in a horror house, of sorts. The film’s tension comes from the desperation of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who is frantic to save his son from Jigsaw’s trap and to bring Jigsaw in by any means necessary. Yes, there’s more gore and more onscreen violence and, arguably, Saw II set the standard for the myriad of sequels to come by ramping up Jigsaw’s traps and plots to an absurd degree, but this was before the series fell off a cliff. Here, minor characters from the first film are expanded upon, the lore of this world is fleshed out beautifully, and we have some of the franchise’s best traps ever.

9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991)

For many of us back in the nineties, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was the first time the “Hero” Turtles were depicted as being as violent and nuanced as in their original Mirage Comics run. Up until the release of this movie, the Turtles were cute, cuddly superheroes who we watched foil the Shredder (James Avery) week after week and whose toys we bought with reckless abandon. However, given how dark and violent the first film was, this sequel does a massive course correction, increasing the silliness and reducing the onscreen violence and decreasing the Turtles’ use of their weapons in an attempt to align the live-action movies more with their more kid-friendly, animated counterparts. Yet, that doesn’t mean this sequel isn’t good in its own right. The Turtle suits (once again brought to live by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) look amazing and are probably better and more expressive than in the previous movie; the film also stays relatively close to its source material by focusing on the mutagenic ooze that created the Turtles, and it also introduced two mutant antagonists for the Turtles to fight.

Tokka and Rahzar are surprisingly formidable.

While they’re not Bebop (Barry Gordon and Greg Berg) and Rocksteady (Cam Clarke), Tokka (Rock Lyon and Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Gord Robertson and Mark Ginther) are a fun, welcome addition. It’s great seeing the Turtles kick the snot out of faceless members of the Foot Clan but Ninja Turtles has always been about the crazy mutated characters and these are two of the most impressive looking and formidable, especially considering their childlike demeanours. The Shredder (François Chau) also returned in this movie and is a lot closer to his animated incarnation, being decidedly more theatrical than in the first movie but no less intimidating. Probably the only thing that lets this movie down for me (no, it’s not the Vanilla Ice rap scene) is the final battle between the Turtles and the ooze-empowered Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) in which Shredder is unceremoniously defeated by being crushed under a pier due to his own foolishness. Apart from that, though, I feel this movie is the perfect balance between the dark, violent Mirage Comics and the light-hearted animated series and this balance is where the Ninja Turtles (a ridiculous concept to begin with) shine the brightest.

8 Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)

Now, admittedly, Batman Forever has its fan-base; there’s plenty of very vocal people out there who rate this quite highly among the many Batman (Various, 1966 to present) movies, especially after viewing the special edition and a lot of the deleted scenes which, had they been implemented, would probably have elevated this movie even higher. There’s a couple of reasons why this film is often unfairly attacked: one is because of how God-awful its sequel, Batman & Robin (ibid, 1997) was. That film’s over-the-top camp, painful performances, and nipple-suits are often considered so bad that both of Schumacher’s Bat-movies are unfairly lumped together and judged as a failure, when this just wasn’t the case.

McDonald’s had Burton’s weirdness replaced with over-the-top camp.

The second reason is because of how dramatically different it is from the previous Bat-movies; after Tim Burton brought us a dark, brooding, serious interpretation of Batman (Michael Keaton) in 1989, he was given free reign on the sequel, Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). While this made for one of my personal favourite Bat-movies thanks to Burton’s Gothic sensibilities, it upset a lot of parents (…and McDonald’s) and, similar to Turtles II, Schumacher was brought in to make Batman more “kid friendly”.

It’d be some time before Robin would truly fly again.

And yet despite the gratuitous neon lighting, the slapstick elements, and an incredibly over-the-top (and massively unsuitable) performance by Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever not only brought us a physically imposing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Val Kilmer) for the first time but it actually had the balls to include Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell). Schumacher smartly uses Robin’s origin as a parallel to Batman’s so that the film can tread familiar ground but in a new, fresh way while also bringing us one hell of a bad-ass Robin suit. Thanks to the blinkered, narrow-minded opinion that Robin (a character who has been around basically as long as Batman) is somehow “not suitable” for a Bat-movie, it wouldn’t be until the recent Titans (2018 to present) series that we would finally see Dick Grayson realised in live-action once again (though we came so close to seeing another interpretation of the character in the DC Extended Universe). Also, sue me, I grew up in the nineties and have always been a big fan of Jim Carrey’s. His performance as Edward Nygma/The Riddler might be over-the-top but his manic energy steals every scene he’s in and he genuinely looks like he’s having the time of his life channelling his inner Frank Gorshin and chewing on Schumacher’s elaborate and impractical scenery.

7 Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

Okay, I’m just going to come out at say it: Terminator Salvation was, hands down, the best Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) sequel after Terminator 2 and always will be, no matter how many times they force Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw on the shades and the jacket.

Salvation focused on the future war, as all Terminator 2 sequels should have.

After how perfectly Terminator 2 ended the series, the only smart way to produce further sequels was to have Terminators travel to other times and target other key members of the resistance (a plot point touched upon in the Dark Horse Comics, the dismally disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Mostow, 2003), and threaded throughout the semi-decent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 to 2009) television series) or to make prequels that focused on the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. This latter idea would be my preference and, as such, I absolutely love Terminator Salvation. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it’s a different type of Terminator movie…and that is a good thing, people! Rather than making yet another lacklustre retread of Terminator 2, Salvation is, ostensibly, a war movie depicting the last vestiges of humanity driven to the brink of extinction by increasingly-dangerous killer machines.

Bale always makes for fantastic casting.

Not only that, we got Christian Bale as John Connor! After the pathetic casting and portrayal of Nick Stahl (remember him?) in the third movie, we got freakin’ Batman as the last, best hope of humankind! And he gives a great performance; stoic, gritty, hardened, this is a Connor who is on the edge of accepting his true destiny and is desperate to do anything he can to stay one step ahead of Skynet. Add to that we got a pretty decent battle between Connor and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger). People like to shit on this sequence because Kickinger has Schwarzenegger’s likeness digitally laid over his face but, honestly, it isn’t that bad an effect and, if you can’t get Arnold back, this was a great way to utilise him. The only faults I have with this movie are that Connor shouldn’t have received such a clearly-mortal wound from the T-800 (I know he was originally supposed to die but, after they changed the ending, they really should have re-edited this scene to make his wound less deadly) and that the franchise has largely ignored it with subsequent sequels rather than continuing on from its open-ended finale, meaning we’ll forever be denied the bad-ass visual of an army of Arnold’s marching over a field of human skulls!

6 Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lucas, 2002)

Okay, just hear me out…Attack of the Clones is not that bad, especially after Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (ibid, 1999) focused way too much on boring shit like “trade disputes” and politics, insulted our intelligence with the dreadful Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and sucked all of the menace and intrigue out of Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) by portraying Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) a whiny, annoying little brat.

The banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a highlight.

Arguably, the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if Lucas had opted to have Anakin discovered as a young adult and cast Hayden Christensen in the role from the start as this would be a far better parallel to his son’s own journey to becoming a Jedi. Christensen is a decent enough actor and he was simply handicapped by Lucas’s dreadful script; if Lucas had opted to let someone else take another pass at his dialogue, we could have seen a bit more of the snarky banter Anakin shares with his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Despite the copious amount of green screen and computer-generated characters thrown at us here, Attack of the Clones has a lot of visual appeal; from the city planet of Coruscant to the rain-swept Kamino and the dry lands of Geonosis, the only location that lets Attack of the Clones down is its return to the sand planet Tatooine but even that is used as a pivotal moment in Anakin’s turn towards the Dark Side.

I would’ve preferred to see what Boba Fett was capable of.

And let’s not forget the fantastic Lightsaber battles on display here; every battle is as good as the final battle from The Phantom Menace, featuring some impressive choreography and setting the stage for one hell of an epic showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the next movie. While I don’t really care for Yodi (Frank Oz) being a CG character, or wielding a Lightsaber, there is a perverse pleasure to be gained from seeing Yoda flip about like a maniacal spider monkey. Oh, and this movie has freakin’ Christopher Lee in it! Unfortunately, Lee’s Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus is criminally underused in this movie and killed off all-too-soon in the sequel. Another misfire for me was Lucas wasting time introducing Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison); I’ve never really understood why people love Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) so much as he’s a bit of a klutz and doesn’t really do anything, but he does have a rabid fan base and, since we never see his face in the Original Trilogy, I would have instead cast Temuera as Boba so that we could see him actually do something.

5 Hellraiser: Bloodline (Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee), 1996)

Hellraiser (1987 to present) is a horror film series that seems to have struggled to be as successful as some of its other peers. I’ve already talked about how the original Hellraiser (Barker, 1987) really hasn’t aged very well and this applies to every sequel in the series as well as they seem to immediately age to moment they are released thanks to the decision to release every sequel after the third movie direct to video. Admittedly, a lot of my fondness for Hellraiser: Bloodline is based on two things: it was the first Hellraiser movie I was able to sit through from start to finish and was responsible for me becoming a fan of the series, and Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) is one of my favourite science-fiction/horror movies. Arguably, Event Horizon is a far better version of Bloodline’s core concept (that being “Hellraiser…in Space!”) but there’s an important thing to remember about that: Bloodline isn’t set solely in space! Instead, Bloodline takes place in three different timelines and follows the descendants of Philippe Lemarchand (Bruce Ramsay), an 18th century toymaker who was unwittingly responsible for creating the magical Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that, when solved, summons Cenobites from a dimension where the lines between pleasure and pain are blurred.

Pinhead has lofty aspirations in Bloodline.

Cursed for this act, Lemarchand’s descendants are driven by an inherent desire to create the Elysium Configuration, a means to forever seal the Cenobites from our world forever Dr. Paul Merchant (also Ramsay) is merely the latest in a long line of these toymakers to encounter the demonic Cenobite dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his acolytes; unlike his predecessors, Merchant actually succeeds in his mission and destroys both Pinhead, and the portal to Hell, forever using a massive space station. There’s a few reasons I think people misjudge this movie: one is that it was absolutely butchered by Miramax, who demanded all kinds of reshoots and changes, meaning that the film’s original director’s cut has never been seen. Another is a holdover from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Hickox, 1992), which saw Pinhead ape Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and become just another slasher villain with a twisted sense of humour. Similarly, in Bloodline, Pinhead goes from being a representative of the Order of the Gash (…lol), to wanting to unleash Hell on Earth permanently like some kind of invading force, to the point where he takes hostages and transforms people into Cenobites whether they have opened the box or not. Yet none of this changes the fact that Bloodline is a pretty decent film; we finally get to see some background into the mysterious puzzle box, there’s multiple times when the structure and history of Hell is hinted at, and there’s some really disgusting kills and gore. Personally, I rate this film higher than the second (because that film is boring) and the third simply because it doesn’t have a Cenobite with CDs jammed in its head!

4 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009)

This one is gonna cost me a lot of credibility but I honestly do not get why X-Men Origins: Wolverine gets so much shit, especially considering how incoherent and screwed up the timeline and continuity of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) movie series became after this film. Sure, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is poorly represented, some of the CG is a bit wonky, and there are a lot of flaws in the plot, but there’s also a lot to like about this film. First, and most obvious, is the film’s opening credit sequence, which many have cited as being their favourite moment of the film. Seeing James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) racing through various wars is stunning and I do agree that the film really should have based around this premise and their slow degeneration into bloodlust, with Logan overcoming it and Victor giving in to it to become Sabretooth. Yet, often, I see a lot of criticism about how the X-Men movies tend to always focus on Wolverine at the expense of other Mutants…yet people still hate on this movie, which puts the spotlight entirely on Wolverine and still manages to feature some new Mutants and fill in a few plot points along the way. We get to see Logan’s time in Team X, the full extent of the procedure that gave him his Adamantium skeleton (although we miss out on the feral Wolverine showcased so brilliantly in the otherwise-disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016)), and even how unknowingly pivotal he was in bringing the original X-Men together.

The cast for Origins was pretty much perfect.

The casting really makes this movie shine: Jackman is at his most jacked as Wolverine and, while he’s a little too tame compared to what you’d expect from this point in his life, he always brings a great intensity and charisma to his breakout role. Schreiber was an inspired choice to portray Logan’s brother, who (it is strongly hinted) eventually succumbs to his animalistic ways to become Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), bringing a nuanced menace and sophistication to what is normally seen as a feral character. Danny Huston is always great as a smug, scenery-chewing villain (though he doesn’t exactly resemble Brian Cox) and Reynolds gave a great tease at what he was capable of as everyone’s favourite “Merc with a Mouth” (…until it was sown shut). We also get some new Mutants, which I appreciate even more after subsequent sequels could never seem to let go of having teleporting demons involved in their plots; Fred Dukes/The Blob (Kevin Durand) is fantastically realised in the movie and has a great (and hilarious) boxing match with Logan and everyone’s favourite card-throwing Cajun, Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) also makes his one (and, so far, only) film appearance here. I only expected a brief, unsatisfying cameo from Gambit but he actually has a surprisingly substantial role. Could it have been bigger? Sure, but I’d say he was treated a lot better than Deadpool (who, it should be remembered, was still planned to get a spin-off from this film).

3 RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). It told an easily self-contained story of Detroit City police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being rebuilt from death as a bad-ass cybernetic enforcer of the law and rediscovering his humanity. It’s a classic film, with some amazing effects, hilarious commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate greed, and would be a tough act for anyone to follow. Yet, call me crazy, but RoboCop 2 succeeds far more than it fails. RoboCop has a fresh coat of paint and has (literally) never looked better onscreen; he’s just as efficient and pragmatic as before and, though he seems to have regressed back to a more mechanical mindset, he still exhibits a great deal of humanity but in new and interesting ways. First, he is routinely referred to as “Murphy” by other officers (particularly Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner) and struggles so badly with reconnecting with his wife and son (who believe that Murphy is dead and buried) that he routinely stalks them, which contributes to his superiors deciding to reprogram him. This results in a deliciously over-the-top sequence where RoboCop, his head full of insane, politically correct directives, tries to calm situations with talk rather than bullets. It eventually becomes so maddening that he is forced to electrocute himself just to clear his head enough for him to focus on the big bad of the film, Cain (Tom Noonan).

RoboCain is an impressively ambitious inclusion.

Now, Cain and his psychopathic gang of untouchable drug dealers are great, but they’re not Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith); instead of Clarence’s manic energy, Cain brings a quiet, intellectual approach to his menace. He also manages to dismantle RoboCop’s metallic body, just as Clarence destroyed his human one, and is eventually able to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop as the frankly fantastic RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”). If you liked ED-209 from the last movie, RoboCain is bigger, badder, and better. A combination of animatronics and stop-motion, RoboCain was an ambitious choice for the film and actually works really well considering the technological limitations of the time. The fight between Cain and RoboCop also holds up surprisingly well and is far more interesting than Robo’s encounters with ED-209 thanks to the villain being far more versatile than his clunky counterpart. I think what brings this movie down, for many, is that Cain’s gang aren’t as charismatic or memorable as Boddicker’s (I can only name two of Cain’s guys off the top of my head, whereas I can name at least five of Boddiker’s), some of the plot is a bit redundant (Robo’s story arc is, essentially, a truncated version of the same one from the first), and the awfulness of subsequent RoboCop movies leaving such a sour taste that people assume all RoboCop sequels are terrible…and that’s just not the case.

2 Predator 2 (Hopkins, 1990)

Okay, full disclosure: as a kid, I was not a fan of this movie. I loved Predator (McTiernan, 1987); it was over-the-top, filled with massive action heroes, and featured a tense build-up to one of cinema’s most memorable alien creatures. The sequel just seemed to be lacking something; maybe it was because we’d already seen the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) in its full, gruesome glory and didn’t really need to go through the suspense of its eventual reveal all over again. Replacing Schwarzenegger is Danny Glover’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a hardened, smart-mouthed loose cannon who plays by his own rules (as was the tradition for any cop worth a damn in cinema back then). I was in awe at Schwarzenegger as a kid so it was disappointing to go from him to Glover but, honestly, Glover is probably better in many ways: his anti-authoritative, roguish nature makes him more relatable as a character and the fact that he actually gets hurt and struggles to physically prevail makes him far more human. He’s a much more believable protagonist in a lot of ways and, thanks to his more developed acting chops, is more than a suitable replacement for Arnold. Predator 2 also takes the titular hunter out of the jungle and places him in the next most logical place: the concrete jungle. Now, a lot of people hate this change; even Arnold hated that the Predator would be in Los Angles for the sequel but…surely doing the sequel in the jungle again would have just resulted in exactly the same movie as before?

Predator 2 established almost all of the Predator’s lore and society.

It’s so weird that people rag on the city setting as it makes perfect sense, is realised really well, and even set the ground for a lot of the Dark Horse comics. No other sequel around this time repeated the first in this way; Aliens (Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2, Batman Returns, Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner, 1992), just to name a few, all fundamentally alter the concept of the first movie rather than rehashing it so why does Predator 2 get such a hard time for doing it (and doing it well, I might add)? To make matters worse, Predator 2 has been criminally overlooked in subsequent sequels; there was no mention of the film’s events at all in the otherwise-excellent Predators (Antal, 2010), a film that went out of its way to reference (both through homage and direct mention) the first movie, and it only gets a passing mention in the disappointing The Predator (Black, 2018). Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey, even featured as an expert on the Predator species but there was no mention in the film of his relationship to Busey’s character, Peter Keyes, despite the two being father and son! I’ll never understand this; it’s a real insult, to be honest. Predator 2 brought so much to the table; it defined the honour system of the Predator species, introduced a whole bunch of the alien’s iconic weaponry, and laid the foundation for comic books, videogames, and sequels and spin-offs to follow for years to come. Subsequent movies have no problem reusing the weaponry or the culture of the Predator introduced in this movie but when it comes to actually directly referencing the film’s events they shy away and why? It’s a great film! Great kills, great action, great tension, some fantastic effects, and a super enjoyable chase sequence between the Predator and Harrigan across the streets and rooftops of Los Angeles! I just don’t get the hate, I really don’t.

1 Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989)

Man, if you thought I was mad about Predator 2, just wait until you hear this one. Ghostbusters II suffers from a lot of the plagues of Predator 2, and other films on this list: it’s unfairly criticised for not being exactly the same as the iconic first film, it’s overlooked time and time again, and direct references to it are few and far between. Just look at the majority of Ghostbusters-related media; be it toys, videogames, or otherwise, the characters almost always look exactly like the first movie rather than this one. And why? Because it doesn’t have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it. Give me a fuckin’ break! As much as I love him, and that entire sequence, it wouldn’t make any sense of Mr. Stay Puft to appear in this movie! The Ghostbusters destroyed it when they defeated Gozer the Gozerian (Slavitza Jovan and Paddi Edwards) and this movie revolves around an entirely different villain and plot so why bring it back? I guess audiences were just used to antagonists returning ins equels at that time but to judge this movie just for not having Mr. Stay Puft is not only unfair, it’s down-right stupid.

The river of slime always freaked me out as a kid.

After all, it has the Statue of Liberty coming to life instead! Sure, it doesn’t match up to Stay Puft’s rampage, but it’s still pretty decent. Also, the film’s antagonist, Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg), is voiced by Max von Sydow, who is an absolute legend. Vigo’s threat is arguably much higher than Gozer’s in a way as his mood slime has been brewing under New York City for decades and is the direct result of all the animosity in the world (…or, just New York, which is bad enough). It’s powerful enough to cause ghosts to go on a rampage again and turn the Ghostbusters against each other, and is a far more grounded threat than Gozer’s plot to destroy the world. The stakes are raised in Ghostbusters II through the fact that the titular ‘Busters have been forced to disband and go their separate ways. Through this, we see something that is also often overlooked about this movie: character growth. Would you criticise Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) character growth in Aliens? Well, yes, probably; you are the internet after all but this plot point allows Ghostbusters II, like RoboCop 2, to retread the familiar ground of the disgraced Ghostbusters being called upon to save the city in a new way. The characters are all a bit more haggard after how badly the city burned them so seeing them rise up regardless, to the point where they’re even able to resist the mood slime, is a great arc.

There are some really horrific scenes in this film…

Add to that the film’s consistent and enjoyable special effects, the truly gruesome sequence in the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system, and a creepy performance (as always) by Peter MacNicol and you’ve got a film that, like Turtles II, is more than a worthy follow-up to the original. And, yet, like I said, this film is often overlooked, almost with a vendetta. It doesn’t help that co-star Bill Murray despised the movie, which is always bad press for any film; his cantankerous ways also constantly held up the long-awaited third movie to the point where we had to suffer through that God-awful reboot before a follow-up would be approved. Despite Murray’s opinions, Ghostbusters II has managed to endure in some respects, though; characters and events were directly referenced in Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters (1988 to 1991) and Vigo’s portrait was prominently featured in the true third entry, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009). Yet I wouldn’t at be surprised if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Reitman, 2021) completely ignores this movie, or at least brushes it off or lampoons it, especially considering the trailers seem more focused on calling back to the first film.


Do you agree with my list? I’m guessing not and you think most of these movies are terrible but why do you think that? Are there any other under-rated sequels you can think of? Write a comment and give me your thoughts below.

Talking Movies: Jigsaw

Talking Movies

It’s been seven years since the last Saw movie, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (Greutert, 2010), spent the majority of its running time haphazardly tying up all the loose ends of one of the most gruesome and convoluted horror franchises of all time. Back then, Saw 3D wasn’t actually supposed to be the last film in the franchise but, as the quality of the films began to wane in its last years, Lionsgate decided to put the franchise on ice until a suitable way to resurrect the series could be figured out. With Jigsaw (Spierig Brothers, 2017), Lionsgate appears to hoping to reclaim the season of Halloween with one of the most successful horror franchises ever but has there simply been too much time between movies?

Two more incompetent cops struggling to stop Jigsaw.

Jigsaw opens with a notorious criminal, Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black) in the midst of one what appears to be one of John “Jigsaw” Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) diabolic games of life and death; chased across rooftops, he is eventually shot by police (led by Detective’s Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Keith Hunt (Clé Bennett), in an attempt to stop him from triggering a detonation. Instead, he triggers another game across town, where five victims are chained by the next in a room where the opposite wall is lined with buzzsaws. The familiar rasping tones of Jigsaw inform them that they must make a sacrifice of blood to escape the room and, in a surprising twist, one of the victims, Anna (Laura Vandervoortt), figures out that just a small cut will release them from their bonds. Although she is able to encourage three of her fellows to follow her example, one is not so lucky and is presumably skewered by the blades. Encouraged by Jigsaw to confess their sins, the victims bicker and argue about their past transgressions in the next room, which forcibly hangs them by their necks until Carly (Brittany Allen) chooses one of three syringes to either cure the poison on her blood or eat her alive through the injection of acid. The now-stereotypical hot-head of the group, Ryan (Paul Braunstein), eventually stabs her with all three needles in a desperate attempt to be freed and, as you’d expect, she is melted to death by the acid.

It’s not a good night unless you wake up with an explosive bucket on your head….

Meanwhile, Halloran and Hunt meet with their resident forensic experts, Eleanor Bonneville (the delectable Hannah Emily Anderson) and Logan Nelson Matt Passmore), who examine the bodies of the victims of the game that is in progress and find unbelievable evidence to suggest that John Kramer is actually still alive and running this new game. Whether its paranoia over the last spate of killings perpetrated by Jigsaw and his apprentices or the desperate need to wrap the investigation up quickly, Halloran almost immediately begins to suspect both Eleanor and Logan of being involved in the game. These suspicions seem to be somewhat founded as Eleanor reveals to Logan that she is not only an avid follower of cult-like online discussions surrounding Jigsaw but also has a whole studio filled with some of Jigsaw’s most infamous traps and mechanisms, including one that was never actually used in a publicly-known game. With tensions running high and the victims trapped in increasingly ghastly situations, the race is soon on to find where the game is being played, rescue the victims, and figure out whether Kramer has actually returned from the dead.

Seriously, I am in love with this woman…

Before going into the film, I figured that Jigsaw would be a soft reboot of sorts; I was sure that it would take place about ten years later, with John Kramer dead but his legacy living on, possibly though his cult-like followers as indicated at the end of Saw 3D. Surprisingly, Jigsaw is very closely tied to the mythology and legacy of the previous films; although the film doesn’t delve too deeply into the exact specifics of the events that came before it, newcomers to the series would probably be best served by watched, at last the first, third, and seventh films before this movie.

Jigsaw’s traps are fairly lacklustre for the series.

One of Saw’s biggest selling points is its use of “torture porn” traps that force victims to endure unimaginable pain in order to survive Jigsaw’s games. Unlike some of the later Saw traps, Jigsaw’s traps are some of the more grounded. The most technically unbelievable ones are at the beginning of the game, with the five victims chained up to a massively complex series of winches and gears; later, Ryan finds his leg caught in a constantly-tightening wire trap while Anna and Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles) are being buried by grain and farmyard tools rain down on them. The traps are interesting and cringe-worthy in their own way but hardly the most horrific or disgusting from the series; Anna is, for a change, surprisingly smart, level-headed, and logical about most of the traps and encourages the others to follow Jigsaw’s rules, allowing the majority of the victims to survive the first three trials. The second of Saw’s selling points is the now-cliché twist ending; Saw (Wan, 2004) had one of the most iconic and unexpected twist endings of all time and, honestly, none of the films that have followed have really come close to topping or even matching that twist. Jigsaw is no exception; there are three twists here, all of which have been done in previous Saw movies (Jigsaw’s game had already been played to completion in Saw II (Bousman, 2005), Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) faked being a victim only to reveal himself as Jigsaw’s apprentice in Saw IV (ibid, 2007), and he, and Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), both posed as Jigsaw in Saw III (ibid, 2006), Saw V (Hackl, 2008), Saw VI (Greutert, 2009), and Saw 3D).

The final twist wasn’t too difficult to see coming.

The revelation that John Kramer is not actually alive shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise as, unless he comes back as a zombie (which would be super out of place given the generally grounded nature of the franchise), but it’s always great to see Tobin Bell onscreen. Honestly, though, I felt like Jigsaw could have done without him being in it; given that Logan used audio samples to imitate Kramer’s voice, I think it would’ve sufficed to simply have Bell return as the voice of Jigsaw (or whoever is imitating Jigsaw) rather than be shoe-horned in in increasingly difficult to piece together flashbacks. In this case, given that we’ve already seen in great detail how Amanda and Hoffman aided Kramer in the past, it’s a bit jarring to suddenly wedge a new apprentice into the mix. For a guy dying of cancer, John sure fit a lot of tutelage and elaborate planning and trap-making into his last few years.

The lasers really took me out of it, to be honest.

In the end, despite an interesting premise, the thrill of seeing a new Saw movie, another great performance by Tobin Bell, and my newest crush, Hannah Emily Anderson, Jigsaw fell a bit flat for me. I felt it was too safe, feeling very much in the vein of Saw VI rather than taking some risks or returning to the simple premise of the first movie. As a way of kicking off a new series of Saw movies, this is pretty disappointing; I would much rather have spent more time with the victims than running around with the detectives/forensics guys dumping exposition about the previous movies. Also, it seemed like it would have made more sense for Eleanor to be the true inheritor of John’s legacy, the idea that Logan’s victims would all die in the same way of those in Jigsaw’s original game was a bit far-fetched (even for this franchise) and, overall, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t surpass my favourite film in the franchise (Saw II) and ended up feeling more like an entry that would be more at home between Saw V and Saw VI than a true return to form for the franchise.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Recommended: For Saw fans who have been clamouring for a new film, yes. Newcomers might want to brush up on their Saw experience first, general audiences? Probably not; watch the first film instead.
Best moment: Normally, I’d say the traps/kills but they were honestly a bit lacklustre here. I guess it’d have to be the part where Ryan’s must pull a lever to sever his leg below the knee to free Anna and Mitch from being buried alive.
Worst moment: Mitch’s death, hands down. Considering Eleanor hyped up the trap he was caught in so much it ended up falling very flat; and it was powered by a motorcycle? Seemed a bit over the top, even by Saw’s standards.