Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw.
Review: When you’re laughing as hard as I was during a movie that falls in the love it/hate it subgenre known as “torture porn”, something is very, very wrong!
Spiral, originally titled Spiral: From the Book of Saw, is basically a sequel in the highly successful Saw franchise. I’m not a huge fan of this horror franchise, as I felt like the first three films was all I needed to wrap this world up nicely. But that’s the thing about horror movies—if there’s money to be made, they tend to stick around long after their expiry dates.
Anyways, Spiral does have a few good things going for it, so let’s play a game where we count on one hand (leaving room for a few fingers) what works here and what should’ve been put in one of Jigsaw’s traps and left to die. As we Trinidadians like to say “give Jack he jacket”, which basically means give credit where is deserved, and credit goes to the film’s cinematography. Superhero films shouldn’t have washed out colour pallets (et tu Snyder) but in horror films the muted tones, dark lighting, and overuse of harsh colours like green and yellow can do a lot to make things feel gritty, and this works in Spiral’s favour. One of the reasons movies that fall in this subgenre makes viewers so uncomfortable is they tend to have a grimy, dirty look to both the visuals and the locations, and this is put to strong use in Spiral.
Then there’s the traps, the bread and bloody butter of the Saw franchise, and the main reason audiences watch these films. There are definitely a few inventive traps to be found in Spiral, with the opening one being arguably the most brutal. That’s another thing they notch up a few decibels here, the brutality. You’ll definitely find yourself squirming in your seats when watching hapless victims try and make it out of their torture devices, so credit given where credit’s due.
Now let’s talk about the suckfest which is the rest of this movie. I’m well aware director Darren Lynn Bousman has history with this franchise. He directed Saw II, III and IV. But I think he was SO focused on giving audiences something different, he veered right off the road and crashed into unintentional hilarity. And now let’s talk about the rock in the room. Chris Rock is not a terrible actor. The man has shown he has range in films like New Jack City and he’s been doing amazing work in the television series Fargo. But for the life of me I could not take him seriously in his role of (deep breath) hard-edged-cop-who-never-breaks-the-rules-so-he’s-a-lone-wolf-hated-by-everyone-in-the-department (and exhale). His facial expressions, which were meant to be dramatic, all seem over the top, and I did a literal spit take during one scene where he’s supposed to be losing his crap at a fellow officer.
Everyone else is window dressing with little to zero development beyond the surface, and this includes Samuel L. Jackson. Who the hell wastes an opportunity to let Sam Jackson be Sam Jackson?! And don’t get me started on the whodunit aspect of Spiral. If you didn’t see that coming, I have to assume you’ve never watched a mystery movie in your life. It was so obvious it was as if the actor was being followed around by a marching band holding up a banner that said “KILLER!” Here’s a change of pace for you, why not reveal who the killer is from the word go and then focus on showing us how smart he is in manipulating everyone around us? If you’ve seen Hannibal (and if you haven’t, you REALLY should) you’ll know not only can this work, but when executed right it makes for some of the most thrilling and suspenseful storytelling you could ever ask for!
This is a movie that borrows the visuals and themes from films like Se7en and The Usual Suspects, yet leaves all the smarts those films have behind. Spiral isn’t a terrible film, but as reboot-sequels go, it is a very poor start. And the only people I could see defending this weak-sauce on display here would be diehard fans of the Saw franchise. Oh well, there’s always Spiral Pt. 2. What? You didn’t think it was over did you?
Sommer’s Score 4.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts on Spiral you can check out my video review below:
So what’s your favourite Saw film? You can check out more horror/thriller articles below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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