Even before Saw (last year's little creep show that could) scared up $35.4 million in two weeks, Lions Gate was screaming for a sequel. Unfortunately, writer-star Leigh Whannell and director James Wan, who crafted the surprise smash for a meager million bucks, were still traveling the world promoting it. So producer Greg Hoffman dug up amateur writer-director Darren Bousman to take over the gruesome tale of the Jigsaw Killer. ''Safe is death,'' reasons Hoffman. ''This kid's as hungry as James was. Why not take a chance?''
In Bousman's story, Jigsaw lures a handful of victims into a fun house decorated with high-concept death traps. ''He's a much bigger character,'' says Bousman of the beefed-up bogeyman. ''The first movie hinted around about Jigsaw, and you heard him talk a couple of times, but you never really got to see him. This movie, you're in his face, seeing the world through his eyes.'' Although the first film all but ensured both Cary Elwes and Danny Glover wouldn't return, Dina Meyer is back and teamed with Donnie Wahlberg as cops on Jigsaw's trail. With so many changes, can audiences count on the same chills as the original? ''That's our responsibility,'' says Wahlberg, ''to make them feel all nasty inside and not sleep for a couple of weeks.''