Few franchises reach a ninth instalment, let alone maintaining big screen enticement – a fact that signifies the latest chapter in the Saw series, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, has considerable merit.
Stalwart fans of the long-running horror franchise will rejoice at the latest invigoration, while others might take or leave it, which leaves the all-important question: is it worth your time? Yeah, why not!
While cheekily touted as a Saw spin-off, on account of there being an all-new killer, Spiral is most definitely a sequel, although distinct enough to stand on its own for series’ newcomers. In this regard it’s somewhat refreshing, while conceptually being the same deal – a sadistic mastermind rigs elaborate death traps and gives victims a choice between agonising survival or a grisly death. And where Tobin Bell’s John “Jigsaw” Kramer took a stand against the morally corrupt in society, the new copycat killer targets a crooked police force.
Chris Rock, who chaperoned the film from concept to release, stars as Detective Zeke Banks, an honest cop who bears the scorn of the department. Partnered with a rookie, he is the first on the scene of a gruesome murder that has the hallmarks of Jigsaw. And while the Saw franchise couldn’t be further removed from Rock’s usual comedy schtick, he has spearheaded Spiral to create a new direction for his career, injecting humour into what is most definitely a humourless scenario.
Samuel L. Jackson shares billing with Rock on the poster, although his role is better described as an extended cameo. This is no stretch for SLJ, who offers a familiar turn as Rock’s retired police chief father, although his performance is reined in to better suit the tone of the film. His addition to the cast is a particular point of reference, but not as distracting as it could have been.
Loyal fans of the franchise will revel in the Saw-isms. The death traps are gnarly and director Darren Lynn Bousman – a Saw veteran, having helmed three prior instalments – doesn’t flinch from the atrocities being committed. Victims are tethered to barbaric contraptions and blood is copiously spilled, with voyeuristic camerawork bringing the audience as close to the carnage as possible.
While horror fans will inevitably experience a sense of déjà vu, there is a lot of maniacal fun to be had in Spiral: From the Book of Saw, which delivers on its promise to maim, twist and crunch. And to have maintained such a strong visceral aesthetic and a lucid continuation after NINE instalments is a testament to those involved, all the way from that incredible first instalment to this latest chapter seventeen years later. See it in the cinema if you can, because so few horror movies make it to the big screen these days.
In cinemas: May 13, 2021
Starring: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Ali Johnson
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman