Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
Last night I watched Spiral: From the Book of Saw. After missing it in theatres I was able to see it at last. I've been a Saw fan since it began in 2004. I think it's one of the best horror film series in our lifetime. The first 7 kept me invested with its incredible concepts and twisted storytelling. The long anticipated Jigsaw being the first disappointment in my opinion. I didn’t have high hopes for part 9 because of this. So I want to play a game….While staying SPOILER FREE, how does Spiral compare to the others?
Darren Lynn Bousman returns to the director's chair. You might remember him from installments 2-4 of the Saw films. He basically shaped the Saw franchise into what it is today. He also directed the horror musicals Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Devil's Carnival movies. Him coming back is promising, reassuring news. That last film, Jigsaw, was abysmal so I gladly welcome him back to make things whole again. He takes a different approach this time, focusing more on the investigation from the POV of the cops instead of the Jigsaw disciples like beforehand. Yes that has more to do with the writing, but the fact that he agreed to bring this vision to life on screen is a bold move that pays off. Even the way its shot stands apart from the other installments he did and didn’t do. Its noteworthy how the trap scenes feel fresh yet are shot with that frantic familiarity too, in a good way. More about that later.
Chris Rock stars as Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks. I'm a big fan of him. Rock had claimed to be a fanatic of the Saw series so that's reassuring. I was worried he wouldn't take the material seriously but he actually doesn't rely on comedy too much. Not enough to diffuse the gravity of the situation. He understands timing is everything. It's refreshing to see him in a dramatic role for once. It puzzles me why he doesn't do it more often.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Marcus Banks, Rock's father and the retired police chief. While his role is limited, it adds to the mystery of the character which is later explained. It makes sense why Jackson would want to be involved but its nice it doesn't solely rely on his presence. It shows he's humble too.
Max Minghella is Rock's rookie partner William Schenk. Together they must investigate a copy cat Jigsaw murder. He fits in amongst the big stars nicely. His character is well written and he's believable in the role. His chemistry with Rock adds dimensions to the dynamic of their relationship unexpectedly.
The writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger deserve credit too. I won't say who the killer is but it doesn't feel contrived or forced. Part of the fun is trying to piece together who did it. The script balances humour, drama, and horror in innovative, satisfying ways. There's an unexpected element of mystery that adds to the intrigue. Specifically, how his entire mantra is approached and applied is practical yet ingenious. Even the thought behind why the film is called Spiral is imaginative. Only people whom adore, respect, and appreciate the prior films could have written a screenplay like this. Conversely, some things I didn't like was the Jigsaw voice and Billy doll being changed. Those are iconic so why change it?
The traps are the main reason we watch these, that's undeniable. While the gore isn't as extreme, it shows there's more to this epic saga than the unfortunate "torture porn" label it has spawned. I always hated that term because at its core, the Saw Saga is all about its intricacy with its character's plot lines. More so than any other horror movie franchise in my opinion. Each trap is unique. They are viscerally brutal, cleverly designed contraptions that should make fans proud. Whether or not the traps are fair games is debatable but that goes with the lore too. I believe there are 2 types of Saw fans. It's always been Gore or Lore. Gore fans may crave more while Lore fans won't be bored.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the originality while they simultaneously respected what has already been a well established. They actually try to expand on the others, not completely change what has been done. When compared to the other movies, it's not the greatest (Saw 2) or the worst (Jigsaw). It does have its plot holes, as all these films do, but one thing I think most could agree on is the continuity of the Saw Saga is impeccable compared to most other big name horror franchises. It's built on a logical foundation that is explored in unconventional methods. I'd place this around 3rd out of 9. This is because brilliant directing, a well acted cast, and clever writing. I highly recommend this to die hard fans. I'm pleasantly surprised the Saw Saga hasn't said GAME OVER yet.
Grade: Extra Large Popcorn