Second verse, same as the first...
If you've seen Death Tube, then you've already seen Death Tube 2. The ingredients of this bloody concoction show up in slightly different proportions but the blandly familiar aftertaste remains the same.
Once again, we have 8 people plucked out of their normal lives so they can be unwilling participants in a lethal game called Death Tube. They are expected to take part in challenges, both physical and mental, where loss is usually accompanied by death. Cooperation helps them survive for a while until their captors decide to change the rules so that the herd is systematically thinned out. Now the survivors must think of a way to escape their predicament before the game claims them all.
I must warn you that I will have to enter spoileriffic territory to adequately discuss a few aspects of this film. If you haven't seen the first entry in the series yet and plan on doing so, I would suggest averting your gaze now. Death Tube was a fairly pedestrian entry in the horror genre. It followed the Saw format of deadly traps and moral dilemmas with little success. The performances were flat, the challenges were silly and most damningly, the gore was unimpressive. It really only brought one new idea to the table: cuddly villains with a perverse sense of humor. I'm talking of course about the grown men (and women?) walking around in giant bear costumes.
Let that sink in.
Giant friggin' bears. Despite its derivative nature, Death Tube was able to make me occasionally smile with the sight of giant theme park mascots pointing guns at people. I remember silently wishing for more scenes featuring the bears. Much to my regret, Death Tube 2 has answered my prayers. If anything, this film features too much of the giant, snuggly bastards. We see bears take comical spills. We see bears perform exaggerated double-takes. We even see bears doing the Thriller dance. Director Yohei Fukuda must have realized that the furry villains were the most entertaining portion of the first film. That would explain why they are severely overworked in this outing.
The Death Tube films want to walk a fine line between horror and humor (if all my talk of murderous bears hadn't tipped you off yet). While the first film clearly leaned towards the horror side of the fence, this entry shifts the balance back towards something resembling broad satire. Even a few of the kills are played for laughs. At one point, a contestant is taken out by a mini wrecking ball. The punch line there is mini. While I agree that this tone is a better fit for the material, the end result is still disappointing and underdeveloped. The ursine hijinks consistently upstage the events of the game. It's tough to care about whether anyone in the film lives or dies when the most developed characters are inside bear suits.
There isn't much to be said about the performances. The characters are merely warm bodies meant to turn cold by the end of the flick and this knowledge seems to be writ large on the faces of the entire cast. Director Fukuda doesn't insult the audience too much by rehashing the entire plot of the first film but he still doesn't build up the second one enough to justify its existence.
The movie was presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Nothing much has changed about the visual presentation since the first film. The image is still a mixed bag. We get grainy shots representing the content streamed off >Death Tube which is frequently annoying and overdone. A few of the darker scenes are also lacking in shadow detail.
The Japanese audio track was presented with English subtitles. I found the mix to be fairly clear and more than adequate for the material at hand.
Much like the last film, the only extras were Trailers and a Still Gallery.
I am no longer sure who the Death Tube series is for. There isn't enough gore in here to satisfy bloodthirsty horror fanatics. The traps and games are too pedestrian to engage viewers on an intellectual level. That just leaves us with lots of killer bears. If that's your bag (please don't tell me), you may want to give it a look. All others can Skip It.