Review: Spiral: From the Book of Saw

For those who may not know, Spiral is the next chapter in the Saw franchise (kind of). While not a direct sequel to what has come before, Spiral acts as somewhat of a spinoff to the main Saw series much in the same way Hobbs & Shaw was a spinoff from The Fast and the Furious. The film manages to give us something new while still honouring the legacy of what has come before only this time around we have some added star power in the form of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson.

First of all though, I need to address a major negative of this film and that’s the runtime. The film moves at a blistering pace and while it works spectacularly to keep your attention fixed on what’s going on, you barely have enough time to absorb what’s happening at times and by the time you get to the end you’re left with a feeling that a lot of this film was probably left on the cutting room floor. I’m sure, somewhere out there there’s a version of this film with an extra 30mins.

Aside from that though, the film is a great watch but to my surprise, while Spiral does acknowledge the work of John Kramer in the original series, prior knowledge of his actions isn’t really required to follow what’s going on here which leads to believe that while Spiral may now be part of the Saw legacy, it may not have started life this way.

The film stars Chris Rock as a police detective with more than a few issues with his co-workers when a serial killer begins picking off corrupt cops in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the famed Jigsaw killer. However, the motivation behind the killings this time around is much more logical and personal this time around and doesn’t just feel like an excuse to rip people apart on screen for the sake of it. In truth, I found the killings and traps a lot more believable this time around and I was happy to see the film didn’t just descend into a gore fest like some of the franchise’s latter entries.

Having the film set in the middle of a heatwave just after the 4th July was also a nice touch to help separate it from what has come before as the rest of the franchise is known for a very specific look and feel however once again, the city that the story is set in once again goes without a name.

My initial response to the fact that Chris Rock was producing and developing a Saw movie was one of confusion and concern. I had complete faith he could get the ball rolling behind the scenes, I was apprehensive how he’d perform in front of the camera due to him being one of the funniest people on the planet but here he delivers a powerful and serious performance that will hopefully help more people see him as more than just a Hollywood funny man.

Overall, I was really impressed with Spiral. I went in with my expectations low and I ended up really enjoying the film. Spiral feels like a natural continuation of the series and comes across more like an old fashioned detective story in the vein of something like Se7en as opposed to the 9th outing of a near two decade long running horror franchise.

by Edward Laing