I wouldn’t usually go and watch a new Saw film, at least since they gained more and more of a ridiculous reputation. I can even recall them coming out when I was in secondary school and being jealous over not being able to watch them because of being too young.
Since then the films have gained a reputation to the point of spawning a Thorpe Park ride back in 2009, and with the series returning based on an idea by Chris Rock (who also leads and exec produces here), you would hope there’s a more grounded+mature tone to Spiral: From The Book Of Saw. also the protagonist and takes an executive producer credit?
Admittedly I only went to see this because of cinemas reopening in England, but was hopeful about the film regardless. Sadly even though the story appears clever, with a serial killer copycat targeting corrupt police officers rather than disconnected individuals (clever in light of the Black Lives Matter situation and over here additionally given the Sarah Everard tragedy and Kill The Bill protests. Derek Chauvin was even sentenced shortly before the film’s release), the tone is not exactly grounded and mature.
There are intriguing moments, especially when Chris Rock’s character (Zeke) first appears undercover and simultaneously being on a rant against “wokeism”. Meanwhile, the few moments where he interacts with his father (played by Samuel L Jackson – Marcus, a likewise police officer), ring true and provide a welcome energy.
Sadly those moments aside and a nasty opening scene where the first corrupt officer falls prey to an archetypal Saw trap (I can tell you it was amusing to hear the fellow audience react!), too often it’s needlessly hard to figure out what’s happening because of poor editing. This, and a muted aesthetic doesn’t exactly help the film feel engaging. I do not mind a movie being disorientating, but with the talent on offer there’s a tragic conservative level of execution here.
Chris Rock supposedly as part of his pitch advocated for more humour. Although you do get that and Spiral approximates Se7en rather than an explicit gore-fest, one wonders whether he got shut out of the editing room? Maybe the director Darren Lynn Bousman, who helmed Saws 2-4 and Josh Stolberg+Pete Goldfinger who wrote the previous Saw, should have been replaced with fresh talent.