Seventeen years after Saw (2004) hit cinema screens, kick-starting a whole new horror franchise, and four years after Jigsaw (2017) seemingly brought that same franchise to a close, the Saw movie series gets a revival in the shape of Spiral: From the Book of Saw. The movie – directed by Darren Lynn Bousman – is a reboot-cum-sequel to the previous films, becoming the ninth entry in the highly successful gorno series.
Spiral stars Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, and Marisol Nichols. The movie tells the story of a police detective, tasked with hunting down a copycat killer, who is following in the footsteps of John Kramer – the Jigsaw killer from the previous movies.
In the film, Detective ‘Zeke’ Banks investigates a gruesome murder of a fellow officer, with the crime scene displaying all the hallmarks of Jigsaw. However, with Kramer long-since dead, the evidence points to the emergence of another killer.
Saddled with a new partner, Banks delves deeper into the case, looking for clues. But as the body count begins to rise, and the investigation begins to spiral ever inward, he soon finds himself running out of time as the killer moves closer to home.
Spiral was released in cinemas back in May, and is still playing in cinemas at the moment should you want to watch it on the big screen. But, should you wish to view the movie at home, the film has just arrived on video-on-demand.
Spiral is available from all the major digital retailers, including Amazon, iTunes, and Sky Store. A 48-hour rental will set you back around £15.99.
As mentioned above, Spiral is both a reboot and a sequel to the earlier Saw films. The movie takes place after the events of Saw one to eight, but in essence is a standalone tale, offering a new entry point for latecomers.
Making this film a soft reboot was arguably the best decision the production team could have taken, as anyone who has followed the Saw series from the very beginning will know that it became more convoluted and confusing as it went along. However, if you are a long-time fan, don’t worry, while this movie might boast a fresh coat of paint, this is still very much a Saw film under the hood.
Spiral looks like a Saw movie, it plays like a Saw movie, and contains all the traps and gore that has become part of the Saw brand. And none of this should be all that surprising really, as director Darren Lynn Bousman has been an integral part of the franchise since the early days, having previously directed Saw II to IV (2005 – 2007).
The good news then is that if you are a big fan of the series, you will like this latest instalment. Spiral follows the same format as some of the earlier films, and lives up to its subtitle, by being very much ‘from the book of Saw’.
The not-so good news is that Spiral doesn’t do anything new. Although it does distance itself from what came before, with new characters and a new killer, the movie sticks to the formula so rigidly, that while this may be a soft reboot, there is nothing in here to convince new audiences to jump on board.
The film also suffers from being somewhat uneven. Sections of the movie are fine, others less so.
All of the new ideas, including the introduction of a new lead character in Detective Banks, play quite well. Chris Rock makes for a likeable lead, and at times he adds some humour to the story.
His character brings a breath of fresh air to the series, and Rock’s performance is the glue that holds this movie together. He also works very well with Samuel L. Jackson, although be warned, they share very limited screen time (and I mean ‘very’ limited).
However, all of the recycled ideas in the movie, namely the death traps, are very poorly executed. They punctuate the narrative rather clumsily, and they are so unimaginative they almost derail the entire picture.
The death traps are a huge part of this franchise, and for some audiences, they are a significant draw; and yet here they are badly handled. There is no innovation in any of the death scenes and certainly nothing that trumps what has come before.
Victims are strapped into various devices, told they are going to die, and then, yep, you guessed it, they simply go and die. There’s no suspense, no tension, and no imagination.
I don’t need lashings and lashings of gore to have a good time, and the previous Saw movies certainly pushed my tolerance for OTT death scenes; but come on, if you are going to restart the franchise you need to deliver a new angle. Unfortunately, this movie relies on the idea that audiences will be happy with seeing the same old schtick, and that is a huge oversight which at times leaves this picture feeling empty.
And speaking of empty, outside of Rock and Jackson, everyone else in this movie is so damn forgettable. I don’t blame the cast, I believe they do the best with what they are given, I blame the script and direction which doesn’t elevate any of the performers or give them anything to work with.
Overall, my feeling about Spiral is that your enjoyment of this movie will largely come down to how much you care about the Saw franchise. Your interest level may also depend on how burnt out you feel, after watching the previous eight instalments.
If you are an ardent follower of the films, and up until now you have found something interesting in each entry, then Spiral will work perfectly fine for you. You won’t find yourself taken to new places, and you will no doubt predict the ending, but you will get more of what you like.
If, however, you have never watched a Saw movie, but are somewhat curious about this one, then do yourself a favour, skip Spiral for now and go back to the beginning. Watch Saw, give Saw II a go, ignore the next lot of movies until you get to Jigsaw, and then maybe seek out Spiral – but only if you’re still engaged with the material.
Spiral is fine for what it is, but what it is, is nothing special. It is watchable if you like horror movies with explicit gore, but looking at the bigger picture, this film is a missed opportunity which could have reinvented the series but sadly it doesn’t come close.