In 2004 “Saw” hit theaters and helped to launch the “torture porn” sub genre of horror. The film series would become an October tradition, releasing a new film every October for seven straight years. The series had seemed to end with its eighth film “Jigsaw,” released in 2017. But as we know in horror, the dead never stay dead, and the series was revived with this years “Spiral From the Book of Saw.”
The film is a unique twist on the long running franchise; venturing into new territory while staying true enough to the roots of its predecessors. Chris Rock plays Zeke Banks, a Detective investigating a string of grisly murders. The killer is targeting cops from Detective Banks’ department and carries out the killings by using intricate and gruesome traps. This can mean only one thing; there is a Jigsaw copycat killer on the loose and they’re preying on police.
Spiral is certainly the sequel closest to the original “Saw.” The film puts the story and the characters first and the gore filled, cringe inducing torture second. The film plays out like a 1970’s police procedural. It’s gritty and dark. The days are long and hot and the characters are over stressed, over worked and nearing their breaking points.
Chris Rock plays an interesting lead. He’s believable enough in the role of the Detective on the edge, but brings just enough of his comedic wit to the character. We’ve seen comedic actors thrive in dramatic roles several times before. Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting.” Adam Sandler in “Punch Drunk Love.” Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” And while Rock doesn’t showcase those levels of acting ability, he proves he can do more than just comedy. Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, playing retired police chief and Detective Banks’ father, are among the best things this film has going for it. It’s a shame that these two don’t get the opportunity to share more screen time together, because it’s a blast to see these two high energy, entertainment icons on the screen together. I’m as surprised as anybody that the movie to make it happen would be in the “Saw” franchise, but somehow it works.
Spiral stands out for trying to be more than just another “Saw” film. It strives to do more than just throw blood and guts at the screen and call it entertainment. It certainly succeeds there, creating a raw and tense viewing experience; however, where it fails is in its lack of originality. The film is filled with predictable moments, clichés and total gaps in logic. The worst offense of all being the film’s weak ending to an otherwise adequate film.
Spiral surprises audiences by sharpening the teeth of an increasingly dull saw. It breathes new life into a series, and a genre, that had grown tired. It’s certainly no masterpiece, but if you’re watching a “Saw” movie you don’t expect it to be. It takes some major leaps, and while it stumbles and trips along the way, it manages to land on its feet more often than not. 6/10