/horror wants to play a game with “Spiral” [2021]

It’s worth noting this is ‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ and not the ‘Spiral’ (2019) from Shudder.

Happy Octoberween y’all! Some of you may remember that I have previously endured all seven Saw movies (Part One and Part Two). I marathoned them again in the pandemic because here in America (specifically Texas) we’re in a never ending hell cycle of ignorance so I’m stuck inside indefinitely. I have seen Jigsaw (technically the eighth in the franchise) but I honestly don’t remember much about it.

Needless to saw, mixed opinions about the original franchise aside, I was pretty intrigued to see they were doing a soft reboot of the series with Darren Lynn Bousman back at the helm (Saw 2, Saw 3, Saw 4, Repo! The Genetic Opera). Spoilers ahead.

Spiral comes in at a pretty tidy hour and a half. There’s a slicker color grading treatment and an upgraded aesthetic, albeit with the same cheap nonsense we’ve come to expect. “Oh you did not just go down there!” is one of the first lines we hear. I’m not totally sure what I thought would happen but I feel like the trailer alluded to a pared down crime drama in the same universe but that is, uh, not what we get. This is the edgy high schooler edition.

I have to tell you guys, even having seen all eight films twice and just re-reading my old synopsis, I remember very little of ‘plot’. In Spiral, the initial murder device appears to be orchestrated by Amanda, in her classic pig mask, with her penchant for torture instead of survival but also Amanda died like six movies ago so…

Everyone in this movie hates each other. Chris Rock’s detective character is a cop who hates cops. The other cops also hate him. He hates his trainee, he’s currently getting a divorce, there’s a lot of anger. The police chief is a woman who only yells. Chris Rock’s dad (Samuel L. Jackson) also only speak to each other in outside voices. The first victim is a cop who was dirty and it becomes evident that the Jigsaw killer is exclusively after cops in this one. Everyone’s real sad about the first victim dying but he was murdered for being shady so I have no idea how to feel about anything. There is heavy pig imagery, including a new pig marionette and a full-tilt pig corpse. It’s not particularly subtle, but it’s not really a pro or anti-cop movie. I guess it leans anti-corrupt-cop?

At some point they do a flashback with Samuel L. and Chris Rock as father/son cops and it had me absolutely rolling on the ground. Both Rock and Jackson have truly terrible fake facial hair (I guess in the past you must have a mustache) and Chris Rock has on a BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP with his police uniform because…he’s…young and impetuous??

Look, I know what I’m getting into when I watch these things. My expectations are low. I don’t anticipate a stellar plot with no holes, or a strict adherence to logic, but like…woof. Samuel L.’s rock star cop leaves a spare key above his door jam. He goes missing for two days in the midst of this cop-killing spree and his rock star cop son does nothing.

I once called the Saw franchise a haunted house, and I think that’s very much still the case here. The whole movie is aggressive and relies on keeping your adrenaline up the whole time because everyone is just yelling at you. There are no quiet spots, no lulls, no periods of false security. Just violence at an 11 the whole time. Every murder ends the same with the victim almost escaping but then they don’t. Consequently the runtime, although short, feels twice as long. The twist is predictable and also nonsensical.

Skip Spiral, go watch Saw 3D.

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