When the killer in Saw II rasps, “Oh yes, there will be blood,” he’s selling himself much too short. This twisted sequel offers up multiple head traumas, electrocution, some chemical poisoning, severe self-mutilation, flame broiled corpses and a horrific hypodermic needle scene that will make you squirm in your seat.

The demented stage is set with a scene straight out of, well, straight out of the first Saw. But instead of a device that rips the jaws apart, this time around the killer known as Jigsaw has devised a metal Venus flytrap-like contraption that attaches to the victim’s neck, and will snap shut over his head if he fails to work expeditiously. As always, there’s a path to freedom, along with a catch. To unlock the trap, the poor bastard will have to dig out a key — surgically implanted behind his eye.

“Live or die. ... Make your choice.”

Ah, the heartwarming psychology of a serial killer. Unlike the first Saw, this time we actually get to look beyond the creepy doll figure Jigsaw used in his murders, meet the killer face to face, and hear his Hannibal Lecter-ish ideologies. Or at least, we get to after a burned-out detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg) tracks him down to an industrial complex. With the help of Kerry (Dina Meyer), the Jigsaw expert brought back from the first Saw, and a SWAT team, it seems like the good guys might finally have the upper hand after they storm the building and capture Jigsaw.

That illusion is dispelled after the cops decide to pull back the magic curtain and realize that (oops!) Mr. Saw has kidnapped Mason’s son and placed him in an inescapable fortress along with seven other culpable individuals including Amanda (Shawnee Smith), the only tortured survivor from the first Saw. As an added bonus, he’s included a door that opens in three hours. Unfortunately, the deadly nerve agent also inside the building will liquefy their insides in two hours if they don’t find the booby-trapped antidotes in time.

This is where the movie bogs down a little bit. The back story of Jigsaw and his sermons about life are interesting, but at times they cut into the action and slow the movie down in places where it should be speeding ahead, hopped up on meth with a loaded gun in hand. Insane rants are great, but don’t promise blood and deliver a crippled cancer patient getting roughed up by a frustrated cop instead.

Other than that, the only real negative aspects of this film are a few minor plot turns where you’ll want to scream, “Bullshit, even my grandma could open that door and she’s dead!” The ending is surprising, but falls short of the impeccable, shocking finale of the first film. If Saw was the low-budget cousin of Seven then Saw II is sort of like the half-witted love child of Silence of the Lambs and Cube.

Chad Nelson writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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