‘Spiral’ finally capitalizes on the promise of the ‘Saw’ franchise

Spiral (2021) - IMDb

Spiral (2021)

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

The best part of every “Saw” movie is the ending…which is where I’ll begin. As we know, the franchise has never been afraid to push the envelope into a new zip code. But the closing scenes have the best potential to truly shock the viewer. And “Spiral,” which the subtitle says is “from the Book of Saw,” has one of the most intense and most distressing endings of the series—which is now nine strong, with plans for a tenth upcoming (no word yet on whether it’s a “Spiral” sequel or another standalone entry). The new film isn’t perfect—I mean, it’s still a “Saw” movie—but it’s the ending that really drives home my belief that this is the best “Saw” movie yet.

John Kramer is dead, but there’s a copycat on the loose—and they’re targeting dirty cops. Detective Ezekiel Banks (Chris Rock), the disliked son of the department’s popular former chief (Samuel L. Jackson), is given a new partner (Max Minghella) to help him tackle the confounding case. As the copycat killer begins staging elaborate and gruesome “games” for the vilest cops on the force to try to survive, Zeke is delivered clues that continue to stump the veteran cop…but eventually lead him to a horrifying discovery.

First Reactions to 'Spiral: From the Book of Saw' are...Raves?! - Awards  Radar

“Spiral” was born from Chris Rock’s desire to branch into horror, and this film (not considered a direct sequel or a reboot, but still in the same canon as all the “Saw” films) bears the comedian’s mark. The script includes several moments of humor, but only while you’re still in the mood to laugh. Eventually, you won’t be. While “Spiral” isn’t as grody as past “Saw” movies (apparently, one scene was cut for being too disgusting), there is tension to spare. And some genuinely horrifying scenes that accomplish more than just grossing you out (but will also gross you out). As for acting, have no fear. Chris Rock may be one of the best-known comedians of our time, but he was mostly convincing in the role. The humor actually helps keep “Spiral” from being as silly as the past movies, if that makes any sense. And I’ve always been a fan of Minghella’s. Plus, the veteran-rookie cop angle gave me strong “Se7en” vibes, which isn’t so far off considering how gruesome some of those deaths were.

Spiral's New Poster Reveals Adjusted Release Date for Saw Movie

“Spiral” isn’t all about games and victims, like past “Saw” movies have been. Now that the franchise finally has an A-list lead, they made it about him. It’s actually kind of nice not knowing who was committing these crimes. Not since the original movie have we been in the dark about the killer’s identity. And this criminal is woke. Jigsaw targeted immorality, but his copycat wants to reform the police specifically. But “Spiral” is also more of a traditional “Saw” movie than I expected. Creative choices were made to keep the look consistent, which I appreciated. You can tell that the filmmakers have actually seen the “Saw” movies and respect them.

Having higher-tier talent in front of the camera (if not necessarily behind it, as the director and writers all have prior “Saw” experience) made “Spiral” a more legitimate “Saw” movie than we’ve seen in the past. “Saw” movies might have once been seen as a novelty, a Halloween-time viewing for people who like to test the limits of their gag reflex—but “Spiral” is more than just gross-out horror. Finally, there’s some meat on the bones.

7/10

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