A Brief History
On October 12, 2021, we finally got around to screening the latest film of the Saw horror movie franchise, the ninth movie of the series, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. After the other films beat to death (figuratively) the diabolical death contraptions and focused on the victims, this iteration takes a different tack entirely, focusing on the investigating detective as the protagonist.
Played convincingly by Chris Rock, there is nothing funny about his character of Zeke Banks, an outcast cop that earned the enmity of his peers by once turning in a dirty cop. Zeke’s father is played by the even bigger movie icon, Samuel L. Jackson, who as usual is flawless. No Michael Emerson in this edition, and no Tobin Bell in the iconic role of “Saw.” Not a reboot, this film takes place after the other films and the belief that the Saw murders are over and done with. Surprise! Starting with the opening scene, a new generation of serial murdering psycho has picked up the Saw banner and begins killing “bad” cops. (As we do not like to provide spoilers, we will not go into details of the plot and action.) We do not want to tell who plays the title murderer, for that would spoil the big reveal when it comes. Suffice to say, Zeke is tormented by the murders and his father, a former Chief of Police (Samuel Jackson) becomes involved.
Spiral does not rely on lots of cheap gore and ridiculous scenarios to keep us interested, and the murder rate is rather slow for the first half of the film. Still, there are indeed some gory scenes of gruesome murder, so gore fans will not be disappointed. Just not as much as a cheap gratuitous production would have had. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, his experience with having previously directed 3 of the Saw films lends some consistency to the experience. The 93 minute running time is about right for a horror film, and the movie has already made double its $20 million price tag. (It was released in May of 2021, though in this age of Covid, movie box office numbers must be balanced against revenue gained by streaming services as well.)
Other main supporting characters are ably played by Max Minghella and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge on CW television’s Riverdale). Lesser characters are also well cast for their roles and fit the movie rather well. The film moves along quickly enough, though adequate character development does take place, a balancing act indicative of people that know how to make a movie. Plenty of tension and angst to go around, sucking the audience into the film like any good horror movie should. The subject of gory serial murder probably means most young children (pre-teen) should watch the movie only with parental supervision and judgement.
The only bone we have to pick with the film is the voice of the villain, previously a dark, dusky otherworldly voice with great implied threat when Tobin Bell was the antagonist. This time, the killer’s recorded voice is a little too bright and youthful sounding for our tastes and should have been electronically altered to achieve a greater sense of danger and doom.
Having seen all the other Saw films, we rank this latest version among the best few, largely because of the need for less suspension of disbelief than some of the other films required of the audience for the rather improbable, far fetched staging of intricate architectural engineering projects that seem to have required an entire team of engineers and workmen to put together in a clandestine manner that defies probability. Spiral, while a little farfetched, is much more believable than some of the other Saw films. If you enjoyed all or even any of the previous Saw films, by all means be sure to see Spiral and we believe you will find that this movie deserves its place in the Saw universe.
(For some of our other movie reviews, click on this link.)
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For more information, please see…
Dixon, Wheeler Winston. A History of Horror. University Press Audiobooks, 2012.
Grahame-Smith, Seth. How To Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills. Recorded Books, 2011.
The featured image in this article, a scaled-down, low-resolution image of poster for Spiral: From the Book of Saw, is used in article that provides critical commentary on the film in question on a website used for educational purposes hosted on servers in the United States per fair use under the copyright law of the United States.