All games need to hit the reset button once in a while…
After a whopping EIGHT installments in the Saw franchise there honestly aren’t too many people out there who were clamouring for more, and this critic could easily say that he’d probably be at the front of that line…but we’re all wrong sometimes.
A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw. Working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.
Spiral: From The Book of Saw certainly borrows plenty from the original films, but rather than having it play as a strictly horror piece of cinema, it ends up as a reasonably solid crime procedural that just isn’t afraid to shy away from some moments of pure gore. While it could have used a little more character development to really open it up to a broader audience, it still flashes us just enough gore to keep the hardcore fans happy.
At its very heart, there’s actually something pretty interesting in the Saw saga. Even in the later installments when it descends into full on torture porn, the morality play that drives it has always been pretty interesting. Here in Spiral the morality play and crime procedural aspects get pushed to the front of the line rather then the gory violence.
There aren’t too many people out there who know this material then Writer/Director Darren Lynn Bousman who returns here to direct what is being laid out in front of us on this one. Bousman captures the dirty and desperate essence of this world pretty effortlessly, giving this unnamed city (which Toronto doubles for) a real sense of being an urban sprawl that used to be on the brink of eating itself alive. In marriage with the morality and debates between right and wrong it’s hard not to get at least somewhat engaged in all this, even when it gets a little gross and overly elaborate.
The film’s visual style really pops here as the story transitions from its roots into something that actually has somewhat of an ‘HBO series’ panache to it…even if it is on a budget.
Rather than play into any kind of horror beats, this film is more crime procedural then anything (all be it a VIOLENT one) and the script from writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger avoid saying ‘Jigsaw’ as much as humanly possible and that works to its benefit. This world of Spiral while playing from some of the same obvious handbook still feels distinct enough to stand out on its own because it’s trying to advance a story rather than getting us from one elaborate Rube Goldberg killing machine to another.
That being said, as much as we enjoyed the story on this outing, there’s no denying that the dialogue is pretty weakly written and has an ensemble cast that isn’t all the way up to the job of carrying it though.
Chris Rock as our haggard hero is certainly putting forth is best effort here on this but while he does a decent job from top to bottom, with very few people to play off of he comes off as pretty forced throughout the movie. Max Minghella is pretty one dimensional as his new rookie partner and familiar face Marisol Nichols is just terribly underwritten as most of the characters in this film either begrudgingly support Rock’s character…or flat out tell him to fuck off at every turn. The supporting players really had no chance at any kind of nuance while Samuel L Jackson’s character is basically there to be Samuel L Jackson.
Much like the original Saw; Spiral: from the Book of Saw has more than enough interesting elements going for it to keep you engaged from beginning to end with it’s visual style for days and compelling morality tale behind it all, but if Spiral finds more chapters being written in its universe, we’re going to need to know a little more about the players involved.
Spiral: From The Book of Saw hits most VOD platforms at premium prices today.