Saw II Darren Lynn Bousman

Saw II was the most successful horror film of 2005, and likely the most profitable film of the entire year, given its miniscule budget. And while everyone expects sequels to be flawed, Saw II is hardly the mess it could have been. Though co-creator James Wan isn't behind the camera, the script was co-written (with Bousman) by co-creator Leigh Whannell, who obviously wasn't going to reprise his acting role from the first film. The plot is a clever one to keep the Jigsaw legacy alive: six people are trapped in a clandestine house slowly dying as they breathe in deadly nerve gas. Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) has caught the mastermind behind the stunt and must figure out a way to save the six captives (he can see them on a video feed), which also includes his teenage son, before they drop dead from the poison or die from the carefully crafted traps designed for each one of them in the house. The look of II is exactly like its predecessor, opting for dark, grimy locations and using edgy, fast cuts to stun the viewer. Some of the lethal Jigsaw traps are cringe-worthy, like the film's opening dilemma and that nasty pit of used syringes, and they help the film deal with its shortcomings. And, as always, there is a twist-ending that will help it segue into the already in production second sequel. Unfortunately, the commentary features an overexcited Bousman, an annoying Beverly Mitchell (7th Heaven), who marvels at her insignificant bit part, and a sexually deprived Wahlberg, who cannot stop talking about how horny he is for his sexy female co-stars, which is both unprofessional and creepy. A number of featurettes look behind the killer's "game" and explore the traps and props, but they're hardly worth the time, unless you want to know about how they tediously made 120,000 needles safe. Plus: art gallery. (Maple)