Spiral Review: A Puzzling Chapter From the Book of Saw

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

In the realm of horror many series have come to define the genre. In the early 2000’s one such franchise was that of Saw which brought the concept of gruesome torture to the big screen. Saw became a major franchise with nine films to its name. The previous entry, Jigsaw, was meant to be a return for the series and while the film was able to find commercial success (despite receiving poor reviews) the studio decided to go into a different direction. Now the series returns yet again with a whole new film called Spiral (aka Spiral: From the Book of Saw).

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the plot centers on detective Zeke Bank (Chris Rock) whose issues come to the surface after a copycat of the Jigsaw killer begins to target the police department. Spiral is more of a spiritual successor to Saw oppose to being a direct sequel, though it is a continuation to be sure. Like many films Spiral took its time to get to theaters as it was originally to be released last summer, and at long last the movie has finally made it to the big screen. The movie looked promising with its direction, and it could be a fresh start for the horror franchise. However, after surviving this new game, I must say that Spiral was more the less the same-with an emphasis on less.

There were good ideas in the confines of Spiral’s plot. The concept of Zeke trying to catch the killer was a way for the plot to break away from its predecessors while still working withing the confines of the franchise. However, what held this twisted tale back was its lacking execution. The plot had a difficult time balancing its ideas to the point where the story felt like a thriller that just so happened to feature Saw traps. The plot’s structure was decent, but it was hardly captivating. Some points were thrilling but it was not enough to grasp my attention. All of this culminated in a plot twist so blatant that a two-piece puzzle would have been more complex.

The lacking execution was also evident in the movie’s cast. Saw has never been known for its in-depth ensembles (though there have been exceptions) so I was not expecting much when it came to Spiral’s cast; yet that brought me little comfort to the result. The cast of Spiral was one filled with unlikeable characters and mundane performances. The characters were constantly at odds and there was little to no development for the principal characters. In the case of Zeke his development was inconsistent to say the least. The character has his moments, particularly his interactions with his partner Will Schenk (Max Minghella) and his father Marcus (Samuel L.Jackson), but his progression was minimal and the details of his past did nothing to clarify on his current situation. When it came to Chris Rock’s performance it was inconsistent as it felt like Rock was trying too hard to break away from his comfort zone (though the attempt was appreciated). The rest of the cast was not much better to the point where even Samuel offered little to the movie. As for the villain, the new killer was underwhelming as despite replicating Jigsaw’s methods the copycat lacked the presence that made the horror icon so prominent.

The horror of Spiral, to some extent, lived up to the series’ legacy. The death traps had a creative flare to them, and the gore was expectedly gruesome-though it was more subtle than expected. However, while the traps were appropriate the jump scares were not. The movie was excessive with this scare tactic and its execution of the startling moments was simply abysmal. Fortunately, the score by Charlie Clouser was a benefit for the movie. While it was not the most notable compositions, the music was appropriate in capturing the right atmosphere for the movie while keeping true to the eerie tunes of the franchise. The use of Saw’s main theme was particularly good, but then again it usually is.

Spiral is not the most promising of starts. While the movie has good ideas, the concepts conflict with one another to the point where elements such as story and character could hardly break new ground for the series. The movie offers a tense atmosphere as well as an appropriate score, but these aspects do extraordinarily little to aid the movie’s lackluster presentation. What looked to be a new beginning for the series ended up being a puzzling chapter and it makes this Film Adventurer wonder whether this is a game worth playing.

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