Nevertheless, "Saw II" is better by a cringe or two. Note for the record that neither of these movies are chilling and calculating at the level to which they aspire. Instead, they're fairly rote and plainly sadistic. The narrative is the standard punishment of the wicked scenario, as the droopy-eye serial mayhem engineer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, reprising his role from the original film) puts his victims in compromising Catch-22s wherein their choices are horrible or more horrible. For instance, at the beginning of "Saw II," a character is given the choice of slicing out his own eye with a razor or having his head crushed in a medieval-looking device strewn with rusty nails. This is not a choice at all, of course; the prospect of salvation or redemption is not legitimate, so what is the point?
In any case, these situations are set up throughout the film, even as Jigsaw himself is captured early on by Detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg), whom he had been taunting with little messages that will also come to a bad end. The hook: Jigsaw has trapped Mason's teenage son Daniel (Erik Knudsen) along with seven other strangers in a house devised to wreak havoc on them and anyone who attempts to save them -- if they can even find them.
There is a lot to wince about in "Saw II," but the thing that should make you wince the most is having seen not only one, but two of these movies. Starring Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith, Glenn Plummer and Dina Meyer. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Written by Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell. Produced by Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules. A Lions Gate Release. Horror/Thriller. Rated R for grisly violence and gore, terror, language and drug content. Running time: 93 min