Chris Rock headlines the latest Saw movie spinoff, Spiral, a gruesomely fitting entry into the notoriously violent horror film franchise.
Rock plays Zeke Banks, a police detective living in the shadow of his father’s legacy and hated by most of his peers for ratting out a crooked cop some years ago. His past actions have made him an outcast on the force, a solo operator.
However, things change when a police officer is killed in a grisly fashion, the death featuring all the signs of a Jigsaw copycat killing (Jigsaw being the murderous villain of the Saw franchise). Zeke is assigned a rookie partner (Max Minghella), and the pair set out to find who’s responsible for the crime while navigating a crooked department and a killer with a personal vendetta.
To get the negatives out of the way first, Spiral: From the Book of Saw features average acting and a poor script with every police-movie trope there is. Ultimately, none of that matters. Spiral excels in its inventive murders and the brutal depiction of them. It’s what audiences watch these kinds of horror movies for, and they won’t be disappointed here. Each death is nauseating and will have audiences squirming in their seats. A few jump scares are also thrown in the mix, making for a genuinely visceral viewing experience.
Despite the film’s flaws, returning franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman has mastered the art of crafting a gritty, grimy world that the audience is can essentially feel. Spiral makes you feel dirty and sick from start to finish like you’re in the world with these horrible characters. Even the good guys are awful in this one, almost making you want to root for the killer.
Having the killer hunt down unlawful cops is the film’s way of adding a timely social commentary, though it’s too obvious to have much of an effect. Regardless, it sets up an awkward conundrum for the audience: is it right to enjoy seeing these dishonest cops face this level of terrifying criminal justice?
The film’s themes are too shallow to warrant a dissection. We go for the gruesomeness, and Spiral meets our demands.
Chris Rock is a fan of the Saw films and pitched the idea to Lionsgate. As a result, they made him both an executive producer and story writer.