‘Spiral’ Falls into Its Own Trap

Spiral Falls into Its Own Trap

Liam Hagan, Staff Writer

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is directed by series veteran, Darren Lynn Bousman. This newest entry in the long tenured horror franchise stars Chris Rock as detective Zeke Banks, a disgruntled and hardheaded worker with all the right intentions.
Rock may not seem like the most conventional fit for the lead of a series where most characters are getting cut in half or put through the gauntlet of the human will. But contrary to the majority belief the beloved comedian really fits into this gritty environment well.
Rock is notably a big fan of this series and approached the studio with this new idea. Seeing his performance in the film makes it clear that he understood the assignment and really appreciates these movies and what they bring to the table.
On top of this, because of the viewers many years of experience watching Rock and typically having a good time, it makes it easy for his character to be likeable and someone who we can root for.
Unfortunately past Rock, the list of positives for “Spiral” is about as small as the chances of surviving being put into a saw trap. To be fair, the film doesn’t totally fall apart past its charismatic lead.
Max Minghella as a bright detective and new partner of Detective Banks and Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Banks’ father and a retired officer who seemed to be well respected in the force, does a great job at striking while the iron is hot in their screen time.
Both men share strong chemistry with Rock and chew up their scenery throughout the runtime. Along with this the humor in the film really works to help levitate the dark story without taking away from the consistent tone.
A few scenes specifically featuring Rock seem improvised from the comedic genius, and this works to establish his character and make the audience feel comfortable, so when the gruesome scenes do kick in they work even better.
And the pacing of the film is really quite strong as well. It flies by and keeps the viewer engaged. That’s about the entire list of aspects of the movie that worked throughout the runtime.
First of all, it’s important to not just assume fans of the “Saw” movies are only gore hounds who seek brutal massacres in order to have fun at the cinema. Day one fans of the series also love how throughout the entire run of movies there is a continuation of storylines that intertwine with one another and represent that of a soap opera. Repeated characters, new realizations of past beliefs, and major plot twists are consistent aspects of past films that one should expect.
“Spiral” hints at these past aspects but ultimately fails to impress in terms of connecting itself to the older films or branding itself as something new and fresh. One possible reason for this is because the writers of the film, Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger also penned the last installment, 2017’s “Jigsaw” and director Bousman also was behind the camera of the second through fourth additions of the franchise.
When you have taken a four-year hiatus from continuing storylines of a franchise and now you brand your new film as something fresh and contrasting from the previous ones, then hiring writers and a director who were part of the old movies that you are attempting to move away from is not a smart decision.
The writing of this film is aggressively mediocre. There are several parts where something on the surface may seem interesting or shocking but immediately requires second thought because it either does not make sense or is purposely rushed because the writers can’t seem to formulate a way to make it comprehensive while still being surprising.
The film’s message is certainly more expanded and timely to current societal issues than it has been in some previous movies, but when the writing is so subpar, the message is difficult to carry once you step outside the theater room.
Another disappointing part of the film is the lack of violence. It’s no secret that most fans of the “Saw” movies do enjoy seeing characters try to bend and not break their physical and mental state. There is something about watching other people struggle and try to find the urge to survive that is so interesting to other people in society which is one part of why these films are so financially successful.
It was at about the 40 minute mark when I checked my phone to see how far into the runtime we were because there had only been one trap scene. Ironically as soon as I did check, another trap was just about to begin, but the fact that a “Saw” movie that only clocks in at about 90 minutes features two traps in nearly the first half of the movie is greatly disappointing.
To be fair, the effects of the brutality and editing are expertly unnerving and cringe inducing, but this is why it ultimately makes it even more frustrating that there are so few moments of this feeling. It seems that the filmmakers also wanted the climax of the film to be jaw-dropping and something that creates conversation on the car ride home, but it ultimately feels disheveled and unorganized; leaving the audience asking more disgruntled questions than excited ones.
It seems that Bousman wanted to have many different types of movie as well. With hints of crude comedy, societal conversations, scary scenes, and a mystery “Whodunit.” The film seems to have some nods to another famous “whodunit” detective film, “Seven.” Which ironically is from director David Fincher who gave Max Minghella his big break in 2010’s “The Social Network.”
Although the pacing is strong, if the filmmakers intended to have several different parts of a movie than a longer runtime would have benefited the story greatly.
Ultimately this film just feels like it wants to be so many things and due to having this urge, it bites off far more than it could chew. As stated previously, the best way to state this briefly is say “Spiral” is “aggressively mediocre.”
If it weren’t for Chris Rock, who deserves attention for giving a strong lead performance in a genre he has never been part of and the occasional great scene this film would be extremely forgettable. I can’t say I can recommend this film to the general audience but established fans of these movies should be satisfied to at least to a lukewarm degree and it is nice to see a mid-budget horror film be released.
All in all, “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” feels like it’s just trying far too much in too little time and falls into its own trap.