SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW (REVIEW)
Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Arriving 4 years after the last entry and 11 since the last chapter, SPIRAL is a firm spin-off of the SAW franchise and one that comes back with a louder bang than the bear trap wrapped around the head of one of Jigsaw's victims.
From the opening scene it's evident SAW veteran Darren Lynn Bousman is back behind the camera and we're in good hands picking up with a Jigsaw copycat taking over the streets of LA. Working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) 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 attention of the murderers twisted game.
It's fair to say that this is not a SAW film in terms of continuation of the Jigsaw story and instead opens up a new world inspired by the previous saga. Yet, SPIRAL is much more than just a cheap cash-in, it's a fresh take on the series that really harks back to what made it so great. Channelling SE7EN and the detective drama that made SAW so gripping before the full on body horror took over, SPIRAL really is an engaging beast with enough of it's own merit to stand as one of the best entries to the series.
Chris Rock gives a surprisingly straight turn, carrying the films most dramatic moments well. There's some of Rock's humour sprinkled within but seeing him taking on a more downbeat and driven role is refreshing enough to ask for more. Samuel L. Jackson turns up and adds his unmeasurable charm to things and Max Minghella brings a softer naivety to things when the gritty relationships from the precinct feel overwhelming.
The biggest star of the series makes a return here and Charlie Clouser's score does not disappoint. Taking a more siloed approach, the tunes are familiar yet distant from the main series and when the film comes to it's shocking conclusion, the screeching chords hit and it puts a satisfying grin from ear to ear.
Speaking of the ending, wow! Josh Stolberg's script comes full circle and it's a shocker. There's nothing here that feels quick and fast and bringing together the SAW alumni of Bousman and Clouser added with Jordan Oram's cinematography the captures the essence of PREDATOR 2 with the famous SAW scuffles, as well as the fresh new blood from Rock, Jackson and JIGSAW writers Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger really make this a winning entry.
The traps are as elaborate as ever but feel in sync with the earlier films. There's a lot of thought behind how each trap is set up for the reason it's victim is there and as the tapes commence, the blood and damage begins, causing a lot of face covering and screaming. In fact to get the film past out in the public there are minutes of footage left on the cutting room floor.
SPIRAL is truly the best follow up to the 2004 entry. It really harks back at what grabbed the audience in being a great mystery thriller first, and a gory horror film second. And when SPIRAL goes gory it doesn't hold back with some of the most intense scenes even rivalling the needle trap of SAW 2. There is, a hefty amount of obvious exposition here and at just 93 minutes it packs a lot in. There's a bounty of traps here and how they got set up in the first place is a huge question mark best not questioned but we're here for the ride and this one is as thrilling as it gets.