DISCLAIMER: There are spoilers ahead for Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures’ Spiral: From the Book of Saw.
I want to preface this that I love horror movies of all kinds. The truly terrifying ones that make you sleep with the lights on for days and the campy ones that make you laugh the entire way through. So what does that mean for Spiral? Well, I liked it, but not because it was the first category like it tried to hype itself up to be. But rather the second more campy horror films. It does have its moments, but the over-the-top dialogue and predictable plot twist make the film feel campy, a tad bit underwhelming and clearly not for everyone.
Spiral follows the story of Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), the estranged son of the previous police captain Marus (Samuel L. Jackson). He isn’t the most well-liked officer on the force after turning in a dirty cop. So when he goes undercover without the permission of his Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols), he is forced to learn how to be a team player by taking on a partner – William Schenk (Max Minghella). After a string of police murders mysteriously connected to Jigsaw, Zeke must quickly uncover who is copycatting before the bodies continue to pile up.
Spiral attempts to be a lot of things. A thriller, a mystery, a police drama and a rebirth to the Saw franchise. It pulls in elements from all of these without fully nailing down any of them. If I had to pick a solid genre to throw this into, it would be police drama with a horror side. Instead, the main focus of the film teeters between Zeke’s issues with the police force and corruption among his fellow officers and the actual brutal murders taking place around him by the Jigsaw copycat.
In the first five or so minutes of Spiral, we are treated to our first gruesome death, including a detective (Dan Petronijevic) either having his tongue ripped out or getting hit by a train. It was a promising start to what could have been even more horrifyingly concocted torture murders. The problem is that the rest fails to add in the suspense that really brings on that unsettling feeling we know from the franchise. The question of if they are going to live to die. We know they are going to die before the cranks even start pulling since we have already been shown the scene where Zeek finds pieces of their bodies.
One thing I was hoping for was the idea that the game was back on—the mystery behind who was really pulling strings. But by the time Spiral reached the middle of the film, it was so clear that it pulled any fun out of the chase. They try to throw in some curveballs with the maybe it’s Zeke’s dad Marcus, or maybe it’s the dirty cop trying to torture Zeke for ruining his life. But they come far too late in the film. It’s already pretty clear which path Spiral is circling towards. The worst, though, is how open they leave the end of the film that pretty much makes it clear they have every intention of making another. They would have done better not revealing who was behind it all and saving that moment for a later film.
Still, Rock and Jackson give pretty good performances despite the film’s flaws. In fact, I would say that the two of them pretty much save the film from being just another failed attempt to breathe life into the franchise. However, the dialogue is rough and only made worse by over cartoony performances by the supporting cast. They continue to remind us that yes, this is a film and these are actors. Some of their conversations were almost laughable moments that felt like they were meant to be serious. It made most of the officer’s deaths emotionally void since we either hate them for how they treat Zeke or don’t know enough about them to care.
And I can’t forget the overuse of the f-word. Now I know it’s rated R and a horror film and I have nothing against the word. But when you start making a game of how many times you hear it spouted off – it’s being used too much. The script could have definitely used a bit more fine-tuning before filming. Overall though, Sprial isn’t a bad film. Should you take the time to watch it? If you are a fan of the franchise, there is more than enough here to keep you entertained until the end. If not, then it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you took a pass on this film. Maybe give it a chance once it hits streaming services.
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