The latest film in the Saw franchise is not your regular run-off-the-mill sequel. Spiral, otherwise known as Spiral: From the Book of Saw, is the first film in the franchise not to feature Tobin Bell as the iconic killer, Jigsaw, beyond a photograph. Whereas Jigsaw gave people a chance to renew themselves through ways of torture, a new copycat killer makes their way through a local police department to exploit the corruption within the system in the hopes it will shake the department to their core and create change. Starring big names such as Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson with a great supporting turn from Max Minghella, Spiral breathes new life into the Saw franchise. The films follows Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) who has to figure out the identity of a mysterious killer who appears to be a Jigsaw copycat alongside his new partner, Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella). Zeke also has to deal with the fractured relationship with his father, Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson) who is a retired chief and whose achievements have cast a long shadow over Zeke’s.
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman who has previously directed Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV and based on a script written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, Spiral has received reviews ranging from the best Saw sequel to the worst sequel. One of the major factors of any Saw film is the traps and the traps in this film are very impressive incorporating some of the most gruesome horror in any Saw film. The opening trap in particularly will have you at the edge of the seat and gives the film an incredibly strong start. There is also a strong foundation story that Spiral brings as well as strong characterisation for the main character with the option to develop the story further. Past Saw films have explored various systems in the past such as Saw VI which follows an insurance executive who is forced to make a series of judgements using the methods applied in his work. What Spiral does is point the finger at the police department specifically as the officers are picked off one by one.
Chris Rock may seem an odd choice for a horror film since he mainly acts in comedies but he shows his dramatic range in this film while also bringing in his signature charisma. His character Zeke is torn between doing the right thing morally or following the corruption and cover ups applied by his colleagues. It seems that this conflict is apparent in his personal life too as he is undergoing a divorce while also being refused visitation to his child. The job clearly has taken over his life and it’s interesting that we don’t see any solution to this. Zeke has an incredibly strong moral compass but he is willing to do anything in order to break the case, even if that means covering up for Marcus when he is suspected of being the killer because he has a hunch that that’s not true.
In support, Max Minghella is great as Detective Schenk who is new to the job. Minghella has long been an underrated actor but he is a great choice for this role as his calm presence opposes Zeke’s frantic nature. The two seem like complete opposites but it turns out that they have a lot in common and the dynamic between them works. It would be great to see a Spiral sequel to see how Minghella’s character is developed even further as he doesn’t get as much screen time as expected. Samuel L. Jackson plays a small part in this film and it’s a great turn that contrasts with what we are used to seeing from him. As Chief Marcus, Jackson is a character who has helped lead a corrupt police department but he doesn’t see it that way. Compared with a lot of recent performances, Jackson’s turn as Banks is a lot more subdued than expected but still packs a punch, especially in the final act of the film.
One of the most iconic aspects when it comes to the Saw franchise is the music. It’s hard to think about Saw and not have the main theme playing in your head. Charlie Clouser returns to score Spiral and it’s a great soundtrack. It’s important to remember that this film is a spin off from the Saw franchise and Clouser does this perfectly in his score. Remixing tracks from the previous Saw films to differentiate the franchises, Clouser’s score feels more modern and up to date in style while also harking back to the nostalgia that comes with the first Saw film.
Overall, Spiral is a great little film that makes its mark in a way where it doesn’t feel tacked on. Not bringing back Tobin Bell was a smart move as it allows the film to make its own rules while showing that this is a completely new era. It would be great to see if they make any more Spiral films and see how they further this story and distinguish the new killer. There may be connections between the new killer and Jigsaw that are revealed in the future but in the meantime, Spiral is a strong start to this new franchise while also bearing some of the trademarks of the Saw franchise.
What did you think of Spiral? Let me know in the comments below!