Impaling, dismembering machines with all the efficiency of Black & Decker, and about as much heart, the Saw movies are "Fear Factor" squared. They wallow in death so that we can feel more alive.
Since most horror fans (the sentient ones, anyway) got this years ago, the only reason to give us a Saw II is to ca-ching the cash register and mete out more "punishment" for people who, as Jigsaw tells us here, are "unworthy" of their lives and their still-intact bodies.
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) kidnaps eight more hapless drug addicts, ex-cons, a cops kid (Erik Knudsen) and poor, poor Amanda (Shawnee Smith), survivor of his last massacre, and turns them loose in a house filled with sharp, pointy and fully loaded booby-traps. Each in turn has to make a fateful choice or a fatal mistake as they basically are egged into causing their own deaths. Only Amanda knows the score.
"Hes testing us," she tries to explain. "He wants us to survive this."
Yeah, sure. Wheres the exit again?
This one-by-one-they-die spree is exceedingly unpleasant to sit through watching a junkie crawl through a haystack of used syringes seeking the antidote to the "nerve agent" poisoning her, listening to a pyromaniac burn to death, and so on.
This time, the cops have Jigsaw in their clutches. But they can see, through video monitors, his victims plight. And since they dont know where the victims are and one is a cop the killer has a grudge with (Donnie Wahlberg), along with that cops kid the ticking clock of doom takes on new urgency.
Darren Lynn Bousman does a nice job of whiplash-editing the suspense, at least in the films opening. But the script, despite stabs at originality, covers too much of the same ground as the original.
Theres no time for character development, no moments of "acting," save for veteran bit player Bell, who milks playing a dying mastermind presiding over one last big show for all its worth.
"Once youre in hell," he hisses, on tape, "only the Devil can help you out."
But give this devil his due. Saw II only has one ambition to make us squirm. And it does. Just dont be surprised if you need to switch to an electric razor after this.