Many torturous games have been played since 2003 where James Wan and Leigh Whannell changed the horror landscape forever with Saw. This low-budget horror movie, packed with tons of blood and guts, spawned an instant cult following, made a ton of money, and resulted in seven sequels throughout the years that followed a serial killer mastermind known as Jigsaw. Several years later, Darren Lynn Bousman (Director of Saw II-IV), has come back with Spiral, a film set in the Saw universe that has basically rebooted the franchise with Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Max Minghella. Adding a little bit of dark humor to the mix, Spiral tells a familiar tale about a new serial killer that takes their cues from Jigsaw with all the appropriate sequences of carnage and stylized edits that made the Saw franchise so popular. With its modern political and social undertones, Spiral succeeds and is exquisitely fun to revisit this universe with new characters. Recommended!
Spiral begins with an intense and brutal death scene that follows a man (Dan Petronijevic or McMurray from Letterkenny), chasing a criminal into the underground subway tunnel over a big public July 4th weekend celebration. It does not end well for him as the patented Saw torture devices engulf his body, mouth, and tongue - thus meeting his demise after a new video showcases his past and presents him with a new game to play for survival. It turns out that his man was a police officer, which allows his partner Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) to run lead on the investigation in finding this copycat of Jigsaw.
Not too many colleagues at the police precinct are keen on Det. Banks due to him turning in a crooked cop several years prior, had his father, the former Chief of Police (Samuel L. Jackson), look out for his son's safety on a consistent basis. As the film plays out, more cops turn up dead and it becomes clear that this new deadly genius is targeting the police force, leaving Zeke to uncover the past while trying to protect everyone around him.
Comedy is not an element that would be discussed when referring to the Saw franchise, but in Spiral, Chris Rock brings that much-needed aspect to the film, even if it's a bit on the dark side with jokes about Forest Gump, women, and other taboo subjects. Josh Stahlberg's script allows Jackson and Rock to have a little fun with their banter back and forth, which allows for a little breathing room and a better and more realistic bond with these characters who are usually always serious in the previous movies. It's a welcome addition and quite funny. As soon as a laugh is conjured up though, the blood, guts, and bones come flying at the screen, and even though the heavily stylized edits that are known in Saw films, there's enough gore to be seen for horror fans abound, leaving the rest of the public to cover their eyes.
Rock and Minghella are excellent on-screen as Rock does a great job turning in a dramatic performance, something he showed the world in his stint on the Fargo TV series. His role here is more enhanced as he's put through the wringer more than once on many emotional levels and he sells it well. Samuel L. Jackson, as always, is phenomenal, funny, and uses his famous four-letter word perfectly even if he's only in the movie for a few minutes here and there. The rest of the dialogue is otherwise procedural and nothing out of the ordinary, but being a Saw film, that's not really the point.
Luckily, Spiral clocks in at 90 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to have fun with this bloody, great reboot to the franchise with some nods to the original score with some additional hip-hop material. Spiral brings new life to this fan-favorite franchise and comes Recommended!