"Oh yes, there will be blood!" guarantees Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the sadistic serial killer at the heart of Saw II. And first-time director Darren Lynn Bousman delivers on his villain's promise with a series of gruesome set-pieces that will have some viewers regurgitating their popcorn. This macabre follow-up to 2004's low-budget horror smash can't rival its predecessor's fiendish ingenuity. But it makes up for it with a deliciously devious plot and enough gory shocks for a dozen Halloweens.
When a dead body is found with a puzzle-piece scar seared into his flesh, all the evidence points to a certain game-playing psycho. Once the Feds track him down, however, Jigsaw reveals the ace hidden up his sleeve: eight hostages trapped in a booby-trapped house with only two hours to live. It's the ultimate nightmare for detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) - not least because his son is among the captives...
Bell's creepy, Lecter-like nutjob - largely unseen in the first film - comes into his own here, giving his scenes with Wahlberg's desperate cop a palpably sinister charge. And though we have little time to get to know his victims before they're shot, sliced and burned to death, the carnage inside his grubby, strip-lighted prison is strikingly and viscerally staged. What's absent is the original's chilling simplicity, most notably in a muddled finale that makes a mockery of much that has gone before. Still, like the nail-encrusted baseball bat that ends up embedded in one character's skull, Saw II is hard to shake off.