While not as good as some of the earlier Saw films, Spiral features decent performances from the cast and just enough traps and gore to keep splatter-happy fans of the franchise entertained.
Plot: When a copycat of Jigsaw emerges, detective Ezekiel Banks (Chris Rock) and his new partner William Schenk (Max Minghella) work together to find the killer.
Review: I admit I am a fan of the Saw series. Even Jigsaw, the 2017 “reboot,” which was met with a critical middle finger, I enjoyed. When I heard that Chris Rock was doing this new entry in the series, I, like most people, raised an eyebrow. Chris Rock is a fantastic stand-up comedian, and I would say most of the content in his filmography is comedies. Therefore, I was both intrigued and a little nervous about how this whole thing would play out.
The good news is, Spiral is, for the most part, entertaining. You have Chris Rock doing some of his usual schtick, and it mostly works, as it works with his character, that of a burnt-out and cynical detective. Samuel L. Jackson, who has a small role, still stands out as Rock’s father – the best exchange in the entire movie occurs between Rock’s and Jackson’s characters.
I always liked Darren Lynn Bousman helming the Saw movies. His photography is usually spot-on, and this is another example of his terrific work. I especially like the frenetic way he films the actors in the traps, giving you a sense of the panic that each character experiences. The movie has a definite flat and dark style to it, which perfectly fits its tone.
As for the traps themselves, they do work. I would not say they are the most elaborate traps, though there was one closer to the end that I found somewhat ingenious. I guess it’s hard to constantly come up with new and exciting devices to torture the characters, making the audience ooh and aah. They are serviceable, though, and there is still a satisfying amount of gore (if you’re into that sort of thing), which will make the fans happy.
I was disappointed with how predictable this movie was. I’m not one who can instantly guess a killer or a twist, and one of the aspects of the Saw films I enjoyed was figuring out who the killer was or what the final trap was. In this one, the killer is easily identified, I would say halfway through the film, and it makes the last half of the movie a bit of a slog, surprising considering the film is only 93 minutes long.
I also did not like that all of the victims were instantly identifiable as being scummy. Part of the charm of the Saw movies was hearing Jigsaw’s condemnation of the characters and seeing the realization in their eyes of their own faults – but also as an audience member, trying to figure out who was truly an asshole and who just didn’t meet the strict moral code of the killer. In this one, it’s very apparent that everyone is corrupt, and that simply takes the fun out of it.
I also didn’t care for the voice on the recording or the new pig’s head. The pig’s head is too shiny and looks too clean – I prefer to dank and distressed look. The voice, though, is really bad – I don’t think Tobin Bell gets enough credit for his sinister whisper as he’s taunting his victims. This killer sounds more like a unisex computer voice, and it just doesn’t have the same effect. It makes the killer sound bored and disinterested, at least to me.
That all being said, this was a reasonably enjoyable entry in the Saw universe. I’m thankful that they at least followed the time-honoured tradition of having flashbacks showing the killer and their machinations while that iconic theme music (which honestly is one of my favourite themes in any movie) builds to a crescendo. The final trap is excellent and worthy of a Saw film. If you’re a fan of the series, I see you enjoying this one – while it’s not quite as good as the earlier films in the franchise, it has enough to keep you entertained and engaged.