Jigsaw, the killer from the first “Saw” (played by character actor Tobin Bell), is nabbed by the cops (including Dina Meyer from the first film), but the cancer-stricken morbid puppetmaster has one more trick up his sleeve- he’s got a bunch of crims (including Shawnee Smith, one of the victims from the first film who managed to survive but is captured yet again, and also “7th Heaven” irritant Beverly Mitchell in a nothing role) trapped inside a house full of grisly traps, and more importantly, one of those inside happens to be the estranged son of detective Donnie Wahlberg.
Darren Lynn Bousman (a first-timer who comes from the MTV school of directing, literally) sequel is actually a more effective (if still a tad contrived) film than the original, which had its gimmick, good intentions by a couple of Aussie filmmakers, but an undercooked screenplay and wildly inconsistent acting (Danny Glover being the worst offender there). Whilst this sequel has the same irritating rapid-fire editing and urine-stained cinematography and production design, and some of the same actors (Dina Meyer’s back? Oh, God, when will people realise she can’t act?) but by allowing villain Tobin Bell to stretch his acting muscles much more this time, the film is definitely benefited greatly. The guy’s a creepy actor born for horror movies and is a strong presence when on screen here. Hell, even Donnie Wahlberg is pretty good here.
Best of all, unlike its self-satisfied predecessor, the film is actually a little unnerving at times (that pit of needles is the freakiest, most skin-crawling thing I’ve seen in a while), and the actors, whilst not great thesps (Frankie G is absolutely pathetic as an overbearing thug who goes nutso. Methinks someone’s been watching “Scarface” a few too many times!), manage to look convincingly terrified, particularly Smith.
Admittedly there’s one rather large contrivance concerning the inactivity of the police- I just didn’t buy that, and I can’t say I ‘liked’ any of the characters, but the ending is killer (unlike the ending in the first film which was patently absurd) and the film is suitably gory.
Basically, the film is just a little more polished than the first film, and is a fine B movie, something one can’t say about too many genre films these days.