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Hastily shot in 25 days, released just a year after James Wan’s low-budget, high-profit-yielding original, and hitting the theaters right in time for Halloween, first-time director Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw II continues the franchise’s trend of redefining the notion of self-imposed torture, if not exactly as intended. Eight strangers—including Saw survivor Amanda (Shawnee Smith, aka “bear-trap-headgear girl”)—wake up in a dilapidated house and are told, via tape, that (a) they have been infected with a flesh-eating virus that will soon have them oozing their insides out through every bodily orifice, and (b) several syringes full of the antidote are not-so-conveniently located throughout the death-trap filled abode. With such a short time span to work with—and his troubled teenage son trapped in the mysterious house of horrors—it doesn’t take hot-tempered cop Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg) very long to land a spot as the new kid on the—er, case of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the terminally-ill-cancer-patient-turned-criminal-mastermind behind the whole convoluted setup. For all his musings on the nature of life, death, and Darwinism, however, Jiggy’s not really much of a deep thinker: While the individually tailored booby traps he’s devised for each of his victims are creative (and easily good for a squirm or two), they’re also painfully contrived—and, in even the best of examples, only loosely related to whatever sin the particular person is supposedly atoning for. Then again, he’s not very choosy about his victims: More than half of them have backstories that are never fully revealed. And besides, if the vague crime of “not appreciating life” is deserving of a flame-broiled death in an oversize oven, one must wonder what grisly fate in Jigsaw’s world would await co-scripter Leigh Whannell—who, having not learned any lessons after penning the first installment, has returned with an even larger group of underdeveloped characters who serve little purpose other than to take turns spilling, spurting, and spewing blood until the film’s inevitable plot twists. Same goes for score composer (and former Nine Inch Nails producer) Charlie Clouser for his relentless nü-metal soundtrack, and cinematographer David A. Armstrong, whose hyper-fast editing is every bit as outdated and hackneyed as the film’s grime-laden set design. If Bousman & Co. make any point at all, it’s that you can add all the blood, gore, and razor wire you want—but dressing your derivative, glorified slasher flick as a taut psychological thriller two years in a row isn’t enough to earn you twice as much candy. —Matt Borlik