Horror Movie Review: Spiral (2021)

“Live or die. Make your choice.”

Spiral (also known as Spiral: From the Book of Saw) is a 2021 American horror film directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. It is the ninth installment in the Saw film series.

During a Fourth of July parade, an off-duty cop, Det. Marv Bozwick, chases a thief down a sewer drainage pipe. Attacked from behind by a figure wearing a pig mask, Bozwick wakes to find himself suspended by his tongue in an active subway tunnel. Heis given a choice via recorded message: tear out his tongue and live, or remain until the next train arrives, killing him. Unable to escape the trap in time, Bozwick is hit by the train and killed. The next day, police Capt. Angie Garza assigns Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks a new partner, idealistic rookie William Schenk. Banks and Schenk investigate Bozwick’s death and Banks realizes this to be similar to the now deceased Jigsaw Killer.

Meanwhile, a homicide detective named Fitch – who several years prior had ignored a backup call from Banks, resulting in him nearly getting killed – is abducted. He is placed in a trap where he must rip his fingers off to avoid electrocution in a filling water basin; he also fails to escape and dies. Some officers begin to suspect that Banks may be responsible, due to his history with Fitch. A box then arrives at the station, containing a pig puppet and a piece of Schenk’s tattooed skin inside. A small vial inside the box directs the police to a butcher shop. Which was previously a hobby shop where Banks and his father, retired Chief Marcus Banks, would go.

Upon arriving, the team discovers a tape recorder and a skinned corpse, identified as Schenk. Deciding to track down the killer himself, Marcus travels to a warehouse, where he is abducted. Shortly afterwards, Garza is kidnapped, and placed in a trap in the precinct’s cold storage. She has to sever her spinal cord on a blade to stop hot wax flowing from a pipe onto her face. She manages to successfully do it but dies of her injuries due to the boiling hot wax, with her body found by Banks.

While chasing a lead, Banks is captured and wakes up at the warehouse, handcuffed to a pipe with a hacksaw nearby.

Can Zeke find and stop the killer before it’s too late? Watch and find out.

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Here it is, okay. I’m not saying in any way that the message in this movie is wrong. Everything highlighted in this movie deserves to be addressed but, why hijack a known franchise to do that? If you want to make a film about inequality, that’s your right. But please, don’t try and force an existing movie series into that narrative when it just doesn’t fit.

The entire Saw series starts with John Kramer and his idea. This is the first movie in the franchise where the killer not only does not know John, but doesn’t know anyone involved with John and doesn’t even have a speech about being inspired by John. You can say, of course they’re inspired by Jigsaw because of the traps but that is not addressed. So it begs the question, is this even a Saw movie? You certainly don’t need to watch any that have come before to watch Spiral.

The traps and gore in this movie look amazing and realistic. They’re definitely as brutal as any traps we’ve seen in the past. But, there’s no way to escape them. Which further adds to my argument. This killer is going against Jigsaw’s philosophy, which is a huge deal!

A big problem with Spiral is the finer details. It makes it so difficult to care about these paper thin characters and the flimsy plot, because you just don’t know enough.

Now onto Chris Rock. Personally, I’ve not seen a lot of him, so I thought I’d be fine watching him and I wouldn’t be too distracted. I was confident I’d be able to take a more dramatic performance seriously. Unfortunately, Chris Rock couldn’t do that. He had to turn Spiral into a horror comedy. Although he was obviously funny, I just don’t think it has a place in this film. Saw is a torture porn franchise, nothing about the situation is comedic. The issue became even worse when they introduced Samuel L “just picking up a pay check” Jackson. The second they mentioned Zeke’s father and panned to his framed Captain photo, I instantly lost it and cracked up. It was a huge mistake to use such a recognisable face and again, make them a comedic character.

The twist is always huge in any Saw movie and I can definitely say I’ve never seen it coming before. But in Spiral it was obvious straight away! Which is terrible. Additionally, how did the killer set up these traps so quickly and expertly? Are they an engineer? The traps in this movie look amazing as I said, but they’re the most elaborate and perfectly timed traps in the entire franchise. How? Essentially, with this person, they are saying that any random person could be Jigsaw. This actor just doesn’t have the aura for it.

In summary, Spiral is another movie where they’ve hijacked something well known and used it to project a heavy handed message that doesn’t fit into the original concept’s narrative. The ending is ridiculously over the top and the killer lacks impact. The only positives are the gore effects and Chris Rock is admittedly funny, but Saw isn’t a horror comedy series.

  • The Final Score - 3/10
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