That was just an inversion to get us out of the presync


Working in the shadow of an esteemed police veteran, brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks and his rookie partner take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

When it comes to horror, I'm always willing to give any film a shot, even when everything indicates it's probably going to be a massive failure. I'm admittedly not a SAW fanatic, despite quite enjoying the first two movies. After these, I can't even remember which installments I actually watched or not. Not even the most recent Jigsaw caught my attention. In preparation for Spiral, I tried to determine precisely how it would be placed in the saga's timeline, which proved to be a surprisingly challenging task. Basically, what matters for this film is that John Walker (Tobin Bell) and his work as the Jigsaw serial killer are acknowledged, making this a sequel. With that said…
Unfortunately, Spiral doesn't change my opinion about the franchise. It's a formula-driven saga that no one really cares about too much anymore. In fact, I'm pretty shocked by the fact that this installment was even greenlit, having in mind the particularly sensitive times our society lives in. Countless movies and TV shows are held to stricter standards nowadays with the risk of getting canceled or boycotted if a certain subject is treated poorly. With so much gratuitous violence, it's surprising to see this franchise still alive. Boasting curious casting choices - Chris Rock leading a horror flick is definitely an attention-grabber - the extremely bloody, gory trap killings are packed with life-or-death dilemmas as always, which will surely please hardcore fans.
However, these are just not as captivating or "fun" as before. This movie doesn't possess a single, memorable trap that surpasses any of the dozens (hundreds?) from before. Just like Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger's screenplay, it's just another lazy, unsurprising variation of a well-known formula. To be fair, and I'm trusting other critics who watched all of the other installments, this is supposedly the version that separates the most from the structure people first witnessed in 2004 and 2005. Still, being different doesn't mean better, and the competition isn't exactly defined by masterpieces. From my perspective, Spiral is just another generic take on an overdone story.
From the repetitively identical kidnapping sequences to the consequent traps, the potential of a great film depended on how Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II, III, IV) and the duo of writers tackled the characters, mainly the protagonist. The lack of characterization is definitely a problem, but the baffling laziness in storytelling ruins the entire flow of the movie. With an overwhelming amount of flashbacks and an incredibly choppy, annoying editing work (Dev Singh), the non-stop heightened, super tense atmosphere transforms every single scene like it's the most crucial moment of the film. Consequently, a vast majority of the dialogues are characters screaming and cursing at each other in almost every interaction.
The out-of-control tone negatively affects the cast's performances. Many people will look at Chris Rock (Dolemite Is My Name, Madagascar) and believe he's delivering an over-the-top display, but he's just following the chaotic environment established by the director. During the first minutes of the movie, Rock is amusing and funny as expected, but he's also able to tap his more dramatic side. However, when every single line of dialogue needs to be interpreted as if it's the most vital part of the film, very few actors can pull it off. Samuel L. Jackson (Glass, Spider-Man: Far From Home) is one of them, but his expectedly short screentime doesn't allow for much entertainment. Though it's always special seeing SLJ cursing at someone.
Finally, SAW is also about finding out who is responsible for the disgusting game, and Spiral doesn't remove that essential block of narrative. The issue here is the lack of a jaw-dropping revelation. Obviously, this is as subjective as everything you just read until now, but I would be astonished if most viewers didn't guess who the new Jigsaw copycat is during the first act. I do want to end on a positive note, so I'll compliment the bold ending. It partially holds the studio against the wall in the sense that the probability of this movie getting a sequel being higher, which can make some viewers think it's too forced. I rather believe they just wanted to have an intense finale, which I can't really deny.
Spiral might offer enough blood, gore, and brutal traps/murders to fans of the franchise, but overall it's still just another lazy, predictable take on the SAW formula. Despite the violently captivating life-or-death sequences, none stands out as an unforgettable moment. Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger's screenplay lacks efficient character development, impactful revelations, and, honestly, a massive amount of creativity. From the repetitively tiresome flashbacks and kidnapping scenes to the extremely out-of-control tone, Darren Lynn Bousman isn't able to take the story to its potential. Everything is dialed up to its maximum as if every single line of dialogue needs to be screamed from the top of a mountain, which transforms the entire atmosphere into a chaotic environment. Chris Rock can't be the only one to blame for his over-tense line deliveries, especially when he starts so well. A strong yet abrupt ending doesn't compensate for such dull storytelling. I wish I could write that I'm disappointed, but I didn't have high expectations for this one.
Rating: D+

Twisted Pictures, Lionsgate, Burg/Koules Productions, Serendipity Productions by Darren Lynn Bousman, Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger.
Stars: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella.

Genres: Crime, Horror, Mystery

Keywords: reboot body count procedural horror icon psychotronic film characters killed one by one mystery killings


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