The premise for Spiral (better known by its full title Spiral: From the Book of Saw) is an interesting take on the traditional spin-off, and a sigh of relief for a movie goer like myself who hasn’t kept up to speed on the Saw horror franchise.
Spiral takes place within the same universe, but appears to be disconnected from a running story. Instead, it’s a standalone crime-thriller about a stressed police force trying to track down a copycat killer who has been clearly inspired by Saw’s infamous serial killer, Jigsaw. Considering the sadistic and impressionable killer is targeting cops, the race to track down the culprit is heightened for Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock). The audience doesn’t know too much aboiut Zeke, other than he’s you’re typical loose canon (only this time, he runs his mouth like Chris Rock rehearsing a new standup set), he can’t escape the shadow of his revered father (Samuel L. Jackson, playing the fatherly role much better than he did in 2019’s Shaft), and he’s given the aid of a rookie partner (Max Minghella) to assist after an undercover job flies off its hinges.
The keyword in the synopsis is, indeed, “typical”. Spiral , directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV), is a connect-the-dots crime-thriller that some may be able to predict early on. However, Spiral gets away with this walkthrough because the film is consistently entertaining. While I didn’t buy Rock as a surly detective with daddy issues, Rock is still able to impressively command a room and hold our attention. The actors he’s surrounded by (most notably his fellow workers) are at his mercy when they’re not chewing the scenery.
The trademark traps that the Saw franchise is known for are present as well, even though it feels like the movie pauses to give returning fans of the franchise these gruesome scenes. Nonetheless, the effects are insanely effective and visceral, making great use out of some amazing special effects.
Spiral is short n’ snappy, with a final act that’s surprisingly derivative of 2004’s Saw, but the production pulls out the stops to keep the audience engaged – Saw die-hards and crime-thriller enthusiasts alike. It’s a movie that brings the pain, as well as the genre’s procedural qualities.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie