'Saw II' arrives in theaters with more blood and more gore, but less imagination than last year's rather goofy original.

Granted, 'Saw I' did have one of those neat twists (even if it was completely implausible) and a couple of respected actors in Danny Glover and Cary Elwes. This junk just feels like something that was slapped together to cash in on the success of the first film.

This time the serial killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), who doesn't actually kill his victims but creates elaborate traps that cause the people to kill themselves, locks several people in a house.

The group is given two hours to find a way out or else each will die from a lethal nerve gas that is slowly being injected into the house. There are vials of antidotes scattered throughout the house, but each is attached to traps that ultimately lead to death.

The victims include Amanda (Shawnee Smith), a former target of Jigsaw's who survived her original ordeal, and Daniel (Erik Knudson), the son of a cop (Donnie Wahlberg) who is close to finding Jigsaw.

'Saw II' basically unfolds like a standard slasher-in-the-house flick, with a subplot that involves the cop trying to get Jigsaw to tell him where the people are.

As the body count mounted, I found myself detesting the way these characters were portrayed as nothing more than victims. There really is no reason to root for them to get out of the house and no reason to be interested in their impending doom.

Only Bell has any sense of a performance, but he is given dialogue that makes him sound like the Yoda of serial killers.

And then there is the ending, with a twist that makes the original look realistic. It's as if the filmmakers decided no one would care if they just used the film's 90 minutes as basically a trailer for 'Saw III.'

After the movie made more than $30 million in its opening weekend, chances for that next chapter are very likely. It's too bad, because if ever a franchise deserved to be cut off, it's this dreadful mess.

DVD dandy of the week

This week's dandy is 'The Devil's Rejects' (B-) writer/director Rob Zombie's delightfully bloody follow-up to 'House of 1000 Corpses.'

'Rejects' begins with a raid on the family of serial killers from '1000 Corpses,' but three - Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) escape and head on a wild and gruesome road trip, with a crazed Texas Ranger in pursuit.

I was not a fan of 'Corpses.' In fact, much like 'Saw II' I detested the way Zombie brutalized his victims. This sequel is a pleasant surprise, with the filmmaker making great strides in creativity and injecting the movie with some much needed dark humor - especially from Haig.

Perhaps it helps that Zombie makes the wise choice of getting the movie out of a confined space and getting it into the open road, giving it a kind of 'Natural Born Killers' feel.

The film isn't without its problems - the anti-hero approach is almost too much and the film almost veers out of control, but the final shot, which resembles something out of Sam Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch,' is very impressive and shows that maybe Zombie can turn into a decent horror director.

'The Devil's Rejects' is rated R for sadistic violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.

Saw II

Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Rating: R for grisly violence and gore, language and drug content

Playing at: Greenwood Mall 10, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)

Grade: F

- Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is still stuck in a time warp from his Halloween weekend escapade to 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' If you suffer from the same affliction, or want to discuss movies, e-mail him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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