Saw II

Saw II ★★★★

Grungier, gorier, more deranged, and more depraved than its predecessor, "Saw II" is the rare horror sequel that both honors and outperforms its preliminary chapter. Darren Lynn Bousman's follow-up to James Wan's surprising original film keeps the police procedural-meets-morality play plotting of "Saw" but ramps up the thrills, jolts, and general carnage. Moreover, the sequel provides its audience with a villain designed to compel as much as he horrifies.

Picking up where 2004's "Saw" left off, "Saw II" is built around the capture of Tobin Bell's Jigsaw killer, a man who constructs the ritualistic death-by-game-of-traps seen in flashback in the original film. Able to hunt their villainous prey but not stop his horrors, police detectives can only watch as Jigsaw's torturous game unfolds. The story is quick, visceral, and dark. It replaces the original film's near-cerebral qualities with a gut-punch, needle-stick physicality.

Bousman assembles a film that is spring-loaded with dangerous corners and shadowy motivations. His horror is palpable and painful, and his characters boasts terrible secrets. His production, benefiting from a bigger budget than its predecessor, is bolder but still offers the sickly colors and contagion-ridden production design that made "Saw" a success. The world of the film is sick, and its terrors are sharply effective.

A twisty and twisted tale of deadly morality, "Saw II" is both an effective sequel and a satisfying stand-alone horror. It is a bloody, skin-crawling nightmare that benefits from its rusty and dingy visuals, its solid and grisly story, and its ability to chill its audience. It all makes for a memorable and icy fear-ride.

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