SPIRAL (2021)

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Photo credit: Brooke Palmer

SPIRAL, aka SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW, is the much-anticipated 9th chapter in the SAW franchise, Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman who also helmed SAW II, III, and IV. I say “much-anticipated” partly because I, despite knowing many of the films are not great, still have great love for all things SAW. 

That said, my love for SAW is intricately tied to John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his spiral-cheeked puppet, Billy. Both of which are absent in this film, which starts the series anew with a copycat killer who favors the creepy pig masks of John’s former minions — and other pig imagery — over puppets on tricycles. 

Photo credit: Brooke Palmer

SPIRAL introduces us to Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a rebellious cop on the right side of the law who does things like lead undercover drug raids without informing his Captain (Angie Garza, played by Marisol Nichols). Zeke also has to live up to his father’s sterling rep, former Captain Marcus Banks (Samuel L Jackson). 

Having previously “ratted” on a corrupt cop, Zeke is on the outs with everyone else in his unit because they can’t trust him, and more importantly, he can’t trust them. Enter young rookie William Schenk (Max Minghella), whom Garza pairs with Zeke in order to keep tabs on him. 

Photo credit: Brooke Palmer

The duo is quickly thrust into investigating their first Jigsaw-like trap murder (shown to the audience at the start of the film): an elaborate test that one of Banks’ coworkers, Detective Marv Bozwick, absolutely failed — and one that leaves a TON of carnage in its wake. Bring on the gore! I’m here for it. 

Shortly after they arrive back at the precinct, Zeke receives a box with a usb drive containing a message from the Jigsaw copycat. This is where the film almost totally lost me; the voice they chose for this killer is …. something. I get that Bousman wanted to have a voice that sounded completely different than Kramer’s alter-ego, but this sounds like someone reading a script off cards while pressing a button on a cheap voice effects toy. 

Photo credit: Brooke Palmer

From there the traps — and there are some great ones … and some not-so-great ones — and murders start to stack up, Marcus gets drawn into the search for the killer, long-buried secrets get revealed, and it all “spirals” (sorryyyyyyy I had to) into the very overly dramatic ending. While OF COURSE also leaving it wide open for a tenth film with a new villain for the refreshed series.  

AUGH I have such complicated feelings about this one! While I have to praise SPIRAL for its splattery practical F/X and its devotion to tying in threads from the rest of the series; it didn’t come completely together for me. It’s gorey and definitely reminded me of why I find the SAW films so entertaining, but the twist was fairly easy to spot, and except for some of the traps themselves, I didn’t feel at all surprised. Did I like it? Did I hate it? I dunno; it just didn’t move me the way I wanted it to.

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