A new game begins.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a 2021 horror film directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, produced by Twisted Pictures, and distributed by Lionsgate. The film stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the ninth film in the Saw franchise. It was preceded by Jigsaw. A sequel, titled Saw X, has been confirmed.
"I want to play a game." -Jigsaw Copycat
Working in the shadow of his father, Detective Zeke Banks now has to deal with a new serial killer, one who uses the same motif as John Kramer, aka Jigsaw. When the killer begins targeting cops, Zeke finds himself at the center of the copycat's sadistic game.
This movie is horrifying.
To be clear, I've never watched any of the Saw movies. To get through those, I watch the Kill Counts on YouTube, which throws the film into a comedic setting so it's easier to watch. I know the storyline and the gimmick of the franchise, but I've never actually seen any of the films before Spiral.
Even so, I know what the franchise is like...and this isn't exactly it. Which is a good thing. The director and screenwriters have said in interviews that this film feels much more like Se7en than Saw, and I'd agree with that. It definitely focuses on the detective story. The inventive traps and gory deaths are still very present, but they aren't given the spotlight.
I also like that this film acts more as a spin-off of Saw than a true continuation. Jigsaw doesn't really have much of a presence inside of the movie. It doesn't feel like a sequel, more like a re-quel, which I thought was a good direction to take the franchise in.
However, the film is insanely intense. The way in which the story is told causes you to be on the lookout for the Jigsaw copycat. And it stays that way throughout. There is not a single moment in this movie that feels safe. The atmosphere is scary as hell. My heart was racing at every single second of this film. From the first horrifying death to the gruesome, haunting ending, Spiral is thrilling and scary.
And I love that the traps and kills are terrifying while being new. Saw is a fun franchise, because these traps always give the victim a choice. As the audience, you can play along and think of what you would do if you were in the trap. It's a pretty scary game to play along with, but I find it actually pretty entertaining.
This aspect bounces off the intensity point I brought up just a bit ago, but I love the way that this film is crafted. The script and direction mesh togethter incredibly well. There are some very cleverly played scenes as well. I won't get super specific here, but I thought that the seven-ish minutes where the boiling wax trap is about to happen and does eventually happen was written very well.
The jump scares in this movie are very effective. There aren't a ton of them, but whenever someone gets captured by the copycat, there is a jump scare. And, even though you know it's coming, it gets you every time. This film works very well as a horror movie, and I think the well-timed jump scares are a huge part of it.
Lastly, I was surprised at how much I liked Chris Rock in this film. I was very skeptical of his casting and thought he was actually very good. I usually find him pretty annoying, but I seriously dug him in this role.
I think that the big problem I have with the film is the villain as a whole. I don't think that the motivation for him or her is very compelling. It's understandable, but I don't think it merits the massacre of a ton of cops. I thought that the reveal was somewhat obvious. They throw in some very clear red herrings that do the opposite of what a red herring is supposed to do: It is supposed to throw you off, but in Spiral, it is so obvious that it is a red herring that it makes you realize he or she is the killer.
I also feel like Samuel L. Jackson's character was pretty wasted. He has an important role near the end of the film, but he is not present for 70% of the movie. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most popular actors ever, and I feel like they should've given him a little bit more to do in the film. The specific story that involves his character does not make a lot of sense, especially when it comes down to the timing of everything.
There are also some pretty large problems when it comes to story convenience. The killer gets a lot of lucky breaks when it comes to certain things, and it becomes evident that some stuff was not thought through as well as it could've been. Especially the ending. I get what they were going for, but what happens really doesn't make a ton of sense.
Lastly, I think that the flashbacks kill the momentum of the story a bit. They are important, but they feel so out of place alongside everything else that's going on that it can merit eye rolls whenever it shows up on screen.
While the villain and story may have its problems, Spiral is a horrifying and worthy next chapter in the Saw franchise.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 15+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
"Spiral: From the Book of Saw"
Fun Factor: 9/10
Story: 6/10 Characters: 6.5/10
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Rated R for strong bloody violence and torture, scary images, language, sexual references, thematic elements
Released on May 14, 2021
1 hour and 33 minutes
Chris Rock as Detective Ezekiel Banks
Samuel L. Jackson as Marcus Banks
Max Minghella as Detective William Schenk
Marisol Nichols as Captain Angie Garza