I just…don’t even know where to begin.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a passion project from Chris Rock. He apparently pitched it to the execs at Lionsgate, supposedly painting such a twisted picture that they immediately greenlit the project. Despite the silliness of this entire concept, the film wound up actually happening. My history with the franchise is its mirror image (lore-heavy and with more than a few holes), but when it came to a clean entry point I was fascinated.
So, was it worth it? Well…kind of.
Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) lives in the shadow of his legendary cop father, Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). His honesty and slavish loyalty to the law, all above his fellow cops, has painted a target on his back with the rest of the force. Forced into more in-line behavior by being shackled to greenhorn Will Schenk (Max Minghella), he winds up led into a twisted game by a copy cat of the Jigsaw killer. With everything on the line and cops dropping like flies, Zeke must find this new killer before his personal connections become a liability.
It’s interesting that Rock chose to pitch a ripoff of Se7en instead of a slasher film. The original films grew increasingly pornographic in their portrayal of self-righteous punishment, Tobin Bell’s snide antihero gleefully pulling the strings from the sidelines. What we’ve got here is a cop thriller, through and through. It’s methods are sloppy, it’s depiction poor, but this is still cinema and we make allowances for the sake of entertainment. Much as I take issue with a lot of the ways Rock decided to portray his ideas onscreen, it wound up being purely thrilling to watch. It’s nasty in the way a Saw film should be, with grotesques and gratifications all around. Monstrous executions are carried out in the name of ideals that aren’t out of the question for the average person, each instance of cruelty justified by something we can’t quite disagree with.
These horrifying images are much less nasty than they used to be. The original seven films grew closer to snuff-porn with every installment, but here we see restraint that still curdles the blood while the stomach remains intact. I don’t quite understand why the plot was considered less-important than the nastiness, but this is Saw so I don’t question it.
You’re going to get what you want out of this. If you didn’t like any of the first eight films then this is to be avoided, but for those like me (individuals who have their young adulthood tied up in the era of torture porn) it will definitely hold a nostalgic appeal. I don’t see this as enough to relaunch the franchise, but it was a fun little exercise and deep inside there’s a little piece of my jigsaw puzzle that hopes we get more of this. The original Saw holds a special place in my heart, a film I watched at boarding academy on a laptop around 1am. I regret nothing, as it led to a discovery of horror and the pinnacles and pitfalls within the genre. From Charlie Clouser’s insanely iconic “Hello Zepp” to the horrific 3D visuals of 2010’s Saw 3D, I’ve stuck with this beast and I’ll stick with it still. There’s a huge divide in critical circles on whether or not this is a “good” film, but I enjoyed it for the purely nasty piece of work that it is. Spiral: From the Book of Saw is the scary kid from school that feared would beat you up; never stealing your lunch money or dignity, instead an individual you were fascinated with and radiated almost comedic big-dick energy.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is available in a theatre near you. Stay safe, get vaccinated, and support your local theatres.