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Spiral: From the Book of Saw


(2021, Bousman)

"John Kramer was right. The spiral: a symbol of change, evolution, progress."

The legend goes that a couple of years ago, Chris Rock had a chance meeting with a big honcho from Lionsgate at a wedding in Brazil, where he expressed his interest in doing something in the horror genre. So, knowing that Lionsgate was responsible for the Saw franchise, the comedian pitched a "fresh" idea for a sort of sequel/spin-off, which he saw as an opportunity to change, evolve, or progress maybe? This put the Lionsgate gears in motion which, fast forward to 2021, spiraled into what we just got.

Spiral follows Detective Ezekiel Banks (Rock) as he pursues a serial killer that seems to be inspired by John Kramer, a.k.a. Jigsaw. He is reluctantly partnered with rookie cop William Shenck (Max Minghella) as they start investigating the murders. This is complicated by the fact that the killer seems to be targeting cops, especially those close to Banks, all of which seem to be corrupt at some level, something that Banks had uncovered before, earning their repudiation.

I've never been a fan of the Saw franchise. I did like the original, which I saw in theaters back then, and consider a fairly strong psychological horror film. But I bailed out after the third one as the films became more a showcase of gory yet ludicrous traps, with barely a narrative to hold them together.

However, I won't deny the fact that I found myself intrigued by Rock's involvement, and the potential for change, evolution, and progress in a spin-off. Unfortunately, there is little of that here. The film does take a different approach, focusing more on the "cop" angle, but the plot is too predictable and director Darren Lynn Bousman shows little skill building tension or creating genuine intrigue. So the film ends up in a weird, awkward middle ground, where it is too bland for a Saw-related film or too dull for a crime thriller.

I do give props to Rock for trying something different and putting some effort into his performance, even if it's not entirely successful. The presence of Samuel L. Jackson, as Ezekiel's father and former captain Marcus Banks is also a welcome sight. However, much like the killer in the film rejects originality in favor of being a Jigsaw copycat, an uninspired script, mediocre direction, and a predictable twist neuters any potential for real change, evolution, and progress, dishing more of the same instead.