Starring Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols
With a new title, marquee names on the poster and no jigsaw puppet, “Spiral” is a reboot of sorts to the “Saw” franchise (2004-2017) that ran out of steam around its third installment. Technically, “Spiral” is the ninth film in the franchise, and while there is new blood in front of the camera, director Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw 2-4, doesn’t bring a sense of inventiveness to the series or the genre as a whole. While comedian Chris Rock isn’t a stranger to dramatic roles, it’s certainly his first foray into the horror genre. Rock’s acting isn’t the problem, it’s the story in which he was part creator that attempts to combine “police are corrupt” with torture porn. The rest of the cast are only mildly invested, Samuel L. Jackson might get second billing, but he only has three scenes.
The South Metro Police Department is being targeted by what the media is calling a Jigsaw copycat killer. While John Kramer (the original Jigsaw killer) has been dead over a decade, Detective Zeke Banks (Rock) and Capt. Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) fear this is another one of his disciples. It’s noted that Kramer never targeted police, and all the victims so far have not only been cops at Metro, but accused of illegal activity. Banks is singled out by the mysterious killer, as packaged clues are delivered to the station daily. Each murder is elaborate and specific to the victims crime (i.e. a lying cop might get his tongue pulled out). With each clue pointing close to home, Banks father, the former captain (Jackson) goes missing.
I’m not sure the guys who wrote “Piranha 3D” and “Jigsaw,” were the creative talent best suited to restart the franchise.
I’m not sure the guys who wrote “Piranha 3D” and “Jigsaw,” were the creative talent best suited to restart the franchise. Much like Bouseman settling into the same routine that depleted this franchise five films ago, their writing lacks the ability to reinvent what wasn’t working about these movies to begin with. We go through the motions of watching one character get picked off at a time, in brutal detail, becoming desensitized to the fact these are human beings because the script doesn’t portray them as such. While the story certainly develops Rock’s character more than lead actors in the past films, you can only accomplish so much in 93 minutes when you have a bloodbath quota to meet.
As far as the filmmaking goes, Bousman employs the same type of cinematography and quick jump editing, rejecting anything new or inventive. The horror genre has always evolved faster than others because audiences hunger more for this type of adrenaline rush, and movie studios often get in a rut with this genre, not to mention they are cheap to make. What used to be thrilling or scary about a movie like Saw has been surpassed by another horror series such as “The Purge,” but even that one has run its course, and the cycle continues. The pandemic has left a gaping hole where the horror franchise is concerned, and “Spiral” simply doesn’t fill that void.
If “Spiral” accomplishes one thing, it’s the reconfirmation the “Saw” franchise truly is dead.