"Spiral: From the Book of Saw" stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Samuel L. Jackson. Released on May 14, 2021, the film is about a detective who investigates a series of mysterious murders.
The film was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who also directed films such as "Saw II", "Repo! The Genetic Opera", "The Barrens", and "Abattoir". It is the ninth installment in the "Saw" franchise. No matter how many times we say no, we always wind up playing these grisly games anyway. That sums up the recent installment in the revolting gore-fest that is the "Saw" series. "Saw 3D" and "Jigsaw" were meant to serve as the franchise's final chapters. Unfortunately, thanks to Hollywood's obsession with milking popular franchises, we get to endure more of this twisted and bloody scenario. Thanks a lot, you demented savages. While I'm still not a fan of the horror franchise, I wound up checking it out anyway because of Chris Rock's involvement. I've only known Rock from his comedies, most notably the "Madagascar" films and "Grown Ups", so seeing him take on the horror genre for the first time was completely unexpected for me, let alone a famous horror film like "Saw". With a new direction and a new killer on the loose, was this fresh perspective able to continue the franchise in gory fashion?
The story follows Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Rock), a police detective. He is assigned by Captain Angie Garza (Nichols) to investigate the death of an off-duty cop. Banks later discovered that the cop's gruesome murder is connected to the other deaths caused by the Jigsaw copycat killer. Like the original Jigsaw, the copycat killer captures, tortures, and kills unsuspecting victims with some deadly traps. With the help of his rookie partner William Schenk (Minghella) and his father, Marcus Banks (Jackson), Zeke sets out to catch the killer before he murders anyone else. If you're reading this and you have no clue what "Saw" is, let me break this down for you. It's a series of films where people get gruesomely killed by a serial killer's sickly demented "tests". That's all you need to know at this point. Some people don't like them because of this, while others enjoy them for being twisty and gory fun. I didn't bother to watch every single one of them, so my opinion towards the franchise is still up in the air. For "Spiral", the filmmakers and Chris Rock decided to focus more on the investigation scenario and less on the victims getting their body parts ripped out. There are kills to be had here in the film, including the ones that may make you feel a bit queasy. Just don't expect a lot of them to appear. This fresh direction should've been the solution to keep this game from ending, especially when it deals with police corruption. However, instead of using it to improve the formula, "Spiral" used the concept as an excuse to keep the money-making train going. I usually have fun playing games, especially those involving mysteries, but this game right here? Ooo boy. This game happened to suck all the fun out of me the moment the first trap occurred. Frequent "Saw" director Darren Lynn Bousman maintained the gritty and violent tone the franchise is known for in terms of the lighting, the set designs, and the editing. Unfortunately, that also means he brought along the elements it's known for as well. Not only was it highly predictable, especially during the third act, but it also had a sense of tediousness that had a more significant impact than the fatalities themselves. The film attempted to combine the elements of "Saw" with a buddy cop film, a mystery thriller with social commentary, and a father-and-son relationship film, and guess what happened? It failed extremely hard on all of them. It's like the writers didn't even bother to expand more on their characters and storyline by the time the second half began. As a result, it left me with people who were too frustrating to like and a mystery that's devoid of any fun, thrills, and big surprises whatsoever. I don't blame Chris Rock for putting himself into the horror genre, especially the "Saw" franchise. I thought his performance as Zeke was all right. But if he's serious about getting into the scare-your-pants-off business, he's going to have to either star in or come up with something original that genuinely showcases his talents next time. Chris Rock did what he could to keep this film afloat, but sadly, it's not enough to overshadow his unlikable character. Samuel L. Jackson, one of the best actors in the world, was also a big waste here, primarily because of how it developed his character Marcus Banks throughout the story. I initially thought the film would explore the relationship between Zeke and Marcus amid its copycat killer hunt. Still, as I mentioned before, the writers didn't bother to explore it further at all. It was only used to advance the plot and nothing else. Then there were the traps and the fatalities, which were the main draw of the franchise. Spoiler alert: they suck! The traps present in "Spiral" were disturbing, but not in a way that'll haunt my mind for the rest of the night. They're uninspiring and downright tame compared to the previous installments I've seen. Sorry, Mr. Copycat Killer, but John Kramer, you are not.
Overall, despite a different direction in the franchise, "Spiral" suggests that this game has overstayed its welcome. It's a "Saw" movie, through and through, for better and for worse. That alone should satisfy some followers of this ultra-violent horror series. Unfortunately, however, it failed miserably to develop its new material properly to bring the quitters back for another round, especially yours truly. Chris Rock had some good ideas, but the execution was severely half-baked and unoriginal, resulting in an unnecessary and forgettable sequel filled with weak characters, formulaic plot elements, and lackluster thrills. It's not only the worst "Saw" film I've seen so far in terms of its disappointing direction, but it's also one of the worst films I've seen this year because of the tiring experience of going through the bloody motions for the ninth time. You may or may not agree with me on this, and that's okay, but this film gave me a clear sign that I should not continue playing this twisted game.