Spiral: From The Book of Saw successfully blends the psychological aspects of Saw and the gore-filled carnage found in the sequels. A solid attempt at revitalizing the franchise, but how long this breath of fresh air can last will be determined on the inevitable follow-ups. The Jigsaw Killer may be dead, but John Kramer’s legacy lives on in this new entry in the long-running franchise that dominated the mid to late 2000s. Spiral: From The Book of Saw uses familiar narratives from the past but opts for more focus on its story rather than being a senseless gorefest like previous installments. It understands what worked for the original film while delivering what tenured fans have come to expect from the series.
This latest outing, which is more of a spinoff, delivers a timely social commentary that doesn’t feel forced given the history of this franchise. This also lends to helping the gruesome deaths have more purpose behind them, unlike before. When it was announced that a new Saw film would be coming thanks to Chris Rock, it was a head-scratcher for sure. However, Rock’s love for the series was the driving force behind it all, and Spiral: From The Book of Saw impresses in more ways than one. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, and written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, the film stars Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, Zoie Palmer, Morgan David Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, and Chris Rock. Spiral: From the Book of Saw follows Ezekiel Banks (Rock), who works in the shadows of his father, Marcus Banks (Jackson). He is partnered with a rookie, William Schenk (Minghella) to lead an investigation regarding murders surrounding their police force. This brutal Jigsaw copycat is not playing around, and they are out for their twisted form of justice.
As mentioned above, the writing this time around feels more character and story-focused this time around. The Saw sequels started off being character-driven but then fizzled out into being more about the sadistic traps you’d witness on screen for over an hour while the story took a backseat. Spiral: From The Book of Saw takes pleasure in setting up an engaging story surrounding these detectives, with Ezekiel at the center of it all. However, much like the predecessors, this film doesn’t flesh out the characters enough. Ezekiel is considered less than his father, who was the Chief many years ago, and the film’s final twist provides clarity on the topic. Still, Ezekiel feels underdeveloped despite his character carrying the film. The dialogue can also grow tired at times and there are some moments where it’s clear Rock possibly had a part in the writing, but it’s refreshing to see this franchise take an interest in telling a solid story again that lends to the killer reveal.
Stolberg and Goldfinger’s script isn’t the strongest or weakest, but it offers enough to hopefully pave the way for a better follow-up. The traps in the film are just as inventive and will surely make viewers cringe a few times. Of course, Spiral: From The Book of Saw introduces some humor, but it’s not a detriment to the film’s tone, which is taking itself seriously for the most part. Also, it’s important to mention that while the reveal is effective and coherent, there are some logical flaws in this writing. Rock’s performance is terrific overall, but there are instances where he does feel miscast, unfortunately. He can deliver a good performance, and the intensity is felt when it’s needed, but certain shots of him could spark laughter, or some people just might not find him all that believable at times. Jackson doesn’t miss a beat here, as always he has delivered another performance that will impress his fans and fans of this franchise. Although, his lack of screentime might be an issue for some.
Bousman’s return to the franchise is a triumphant one, he keeps Spiral: From The Book of Saw very nerve-racking, the pacing is a little slow at times, but when the intensity kicks in you will feel it. Some of the shots will make viewers cringe in a good way, and Bousman keeps you on the edge of your seat. The cinematography is a tremendous compliment to the film, and assists in setting the mood while delivering some beautiful visuals for this latest entry. Charlie Clouser’s score is a heart-pounding treat that will keep you invested in this narrative, despite its glaring flaws. The jumbled third act is made better by the use of this new score combined with familiar cues from previous entries.
Spiral: From The Book of Saw doesn’t offer an overly fresh take on the Saw franchise, but what it does is set a solid foundation for a promising future. This supposed breath of fresh air probably can’t maintain this momentum if it’s run into the grown going forward. This concept may be considered the most social justice-based entry since Saw VI, but this franchise has examined policing in the past, so this narrative doesn’t feel forced. Spiral: From The Book of Saw gets just enough right to be considered the strongest outing since Saw 3 and stands on its own just fine.