SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW (2021)
YOU WILL BE WARNED BEFORE SPOILERS
Confusion abounds in the latest installment of the Saw franchise. This is the 9th movie in the series, and attempts to separate itself from the previous movies while also being aware of the events within. And while being even more of a cop-centered drama than Saw II, it taps into the prevailing social justice angst against police by concentrating solely on them and their deeds.
Chris Rock performs his role rather well as the police detective who has his whole department against him. This is played through a directorial over-emphasis on the sneers and backhanded insults of his fellow cops, with cheesy micro-plots and common – almost tiring – tropes. His father, a former district sergeant, is Samuel L. Jackson, who must be under contract to be in every 7th film made right now. Max Minghella, from the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale”, is so emotionless and evenhanded in his performance, it’s difficult to figure out if the directing geared his persona in this manner or if he’s just a shitty actor. For me, it meant figuring out parts of the ‘twist’ early on.
The setting also seems to have changed. These movies always have the police cruisers and badges carry the monikers “Metro Police” or “South District”. The first movie gives us 2 indications of setting: a license plate clearly from New Jersey, and a shot of Washington DC. Yet this one is clearly set in Philadelphia, and the familiarity carries over to the new location. This is important because unlike actual police detective procedures, the top-notch detectives never contact previous departments which have had to deal with Jigsaw killings. The events here are copy-cat. And with reference back to Jigsaw, our games begin.
Fans of police dramas will enjoy this movie more than fans of the horror aspects of the franchise. But if the ending makes the movie, then the ending unwound this Spiral. I won’t be so bold as to point out exactly who the coordinator of the major mayhem is, but that person is – at the very end – seen by several police going into an elevator. This makes me wonder what will be happening for what I am certain will be sequels. The killer is now known, which will make it more difficult for the killer to operate.
With enough meandering threads through this loose shoelace of a plot, I can only recommend this one to the most die-hard fans of the franchise. If you want action, go see Godzilla vs. Kong. If you want body horror, turn on your Roku and see Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor. If you want ghoulish horror, see the slightly better – yet imperfect – Army of the Dead.
I’m not sure I’d care if Spiral swirls down the drain.