Spiral Book Of Saw Review
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Introduction To Spiral

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I like the Saw movies – Yep I just said that out loud. Back in the early Noughties, Saw was a thing. A deeply graphic Horror series, that for all its grossness never attempted try to copy other Horrors. It’s a franchise with its own identity and dare I say it, a decent plot line that held it all together. Even after the series big bad Kramer had been killed in Saw III, Saws 4 and 5 continued to explore the Saw ethos. It’s a franchise that has spawned video games, fan fiction and a (rather excellent) theme park ride. That was until the eighth film in the franchise suddenly popped up, and just like one of Kramer’s traps, ripped apart any good will that was left for the franchise.  However, like the good tool it is, the Saw keeps on spinning and Spiral: From The Book Of Saw has arrived. Let’s see if it lives or dies, I’ve watched it and made my choice!

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The Script/Screenplay

4 Out of 10

4 Out of 10

So, legend has it that comedian turned actor Chris Rock suddenly came up with an idea of how to rejuvenate the Saw franchise, and then promptly pitched it to Saw producers Twisted Pictures.  Twisted loved Rock’s pitch and greenlit Saw 9.  I’ve heard Rock in interviews discussing Saw and it’s clear he has a huge amount of enthusiasm for the project, and I can only imagine that this was what swayed Twisted to get back into the Saw game. But… what they have come up with and produced, lives in the shadow of what has come before and does nothing new for either Saw franchise, or the Horror genre.  It is a stark departure from Saw’s beginning.

Josh Stolberg , co-writer Peter Goldfinger and franchise producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg worked on finalising the script and even brought back Saw veteran director Darren Lynn Bousman.

The premise of Chris Rock’s vision is that a serial cop killer is on the loose looking for crooked coppers and handing out justice, inspired by the Saw killings.  Chris Rock is the grumpy, shouty, distrusted, unloved Detective Zeke Banks.  Working within an atmosphere of distrust (Banks was responsible for outing a crooked cop – an important plot point) Banks takes the case when his cop friend is killed and tries to solve the various murders that ensue. His captain teams him up with a rookie that, surprise, banks struggles to get along with. Soon enough body parts start arriving in boxes; something that is obviously inspired by the film 7even.

Rock’s idea seems to have been to swap the focus of Saw from viewing things from the victim’s point of view, to focusing on those investigating the victims. This presents Spiral: The Book Of Saw as more of a procedural thriller with horror elements, than the out and out horror of the previous Saw movies. It also hits upon the topics of the repercussions of police brutality.  Eventually all this leads to a final scene that can only be described as the Horror version of the ‘We Both Reached for The Gun’ scene in Chicago.

This is not the clever scripting we ‘Saw’ in the early films. This is a predictable, trawl through ideas perfected in other films and making things that look ‘Saw like’. Whilst some of Saw’s DNA is retained in flashbacks and the odd bit of fan service, nothing can make up for the fact that, for most of the film, the writers cannot settle for what tone they want the film to be.  Is it a Horror? is it a thriller? is it a 1990’s cop comedy? I would go as far to say that there is no suspense or thrill created by the script and the contractually arranged murder traps, provide little respite from mediocrity.

Standout Casting

6 out of 10

6 Out Of !0

Chris Rock

Chris Rock as detective Zeke Banks.  Let’s get straight to the point, Spiral: The Book Of Saw is a Chris Rock vehicle first and a Saw movie second.  When let loose Chris rock can be very funny, but his charisma is constrained in Spiral as he tries to embody his detective persona. Seemingly getting little direction on how to achieve this from director Bousman results in Rock displaying a limited acting ability, that ranges from standing shouting his lines to standing and not shouting his lines! Couple this with the underwhelming script and you get classic lines like

William Schenk : So, uh, how do you take your coffee in the morning?

Det. Zeke Banks : Alone.

Rock’s performance is saved a little when he shares the screen with co-stars such as Max Minghella or Samuel L. Jackson. Weirdly though, these scenes descend Spiral into a poor parody of a 1980’s style buddy cop comedy.

Samuel L. Jackson.

Samuel L. Jackson as Marcus Banks. It’s no fluke that Spiral attracted an actual A lister. Having bagged roles in several major franchises, and leaving an indelible mark on cinema history, I reckon there is not much else left on Sam L’s bucket list. As Jackson seems to be handpicking his roles now, it seems the way to grab Jackson for your movie, is to offer him an insane sequence that he’s never done before. Bousman did just that by offering to string Jackson up like a marionette.  This is a shame as other than that, Bousman gives Jackson very little to do. This  means Jackson’s scenes feel like they could easily be a collection of Marvel end credit stings, intercut in the film a few times. He simply appears says some words in a very Jackson’y kind of way, sometimes he is sitting and other times he is.. sitting. His chemistry with Rock is spot on though and the father/son relationship it believable. I would love to see more of these two riffing off each other, in an alternative reality the pair would be perfect for Lethal Weapon. Back to Spiral though and its fair to say the trailer makes Marcus Banks look way more interesting then he is.

Max Minghella

Max Minghella as Detective William Schenk.  Credit has to be given to Max.  He too may have a weak script to work with, but Bousman seems to get the best out of Minghella. I believe that Minghella is a rookie cop (with a past) and yes, it’s completely obvious what’s driving him, but Minghella plays these cards well. Picking up the pace as the film goes on and matching Rock’s shouty delivery of lines at times. This is not a one flavour performance. It would have been easy for Rock to dominate this film, but Minghella keeps him well contained. Good effort




Sound/Music/Score

5 Out Of 10

5 Out Of 10

Saw composer Charlie Clouser returns for Spiral.  Clouser has also benefited from a switch to location based filmmaking, and uses this to bring a lighter sound with more precision. Gone are the darker tones of the original films. I have the usual problem though, that the score is not memorable. A few days after watching and I cannot describe to you any of the soundtrack. Contrast that with horror classic Psycho and key score elements come to mind.

The audio though is good enough with dialogue clear to understand (even with Rock’s loud style) and Spiral is presented in ATMOS making good use of the spatial audio. The traps in particular benefit from clever use of ATMOS with the trap mechanisms sounding visceral. Look out for a scene with flying glass.

Video Quality

Rating 10 out of 10

10 out of 10

Jordan Oram is the cinematographer for Spiral and to be fair he’s done a great job.  The switch to focusing Spiral away from the victims POV has allowed Oram to concentrate more on the visual spectacle. Gone are the mainly studio sets and in come location visits. Oram has implemented colour filters that give the film a slightly blue/grey colour palate this allows the bright red Spiral logo to pop on screen. The clever touch that people may have missed is that the actors wear clothes that complement the cinematography. Quite meticulous attention to detail.

Spiral is available in 4K HDR, with the HDR providing a noticeable boost the blue cast and darker scenes benefit greatly from enhanced shadow detail.

Visual Effects

6 out of 10

6 Out Of !0

Over the years Twisted Pictures have built a solid reputation for visual effects, this is kind of continued with Spiral.  The attention to detail is turned up to the max and realistic graphic horror is on full display. The issue I have though is the traps.  In the original series John Cramer’s MO was never to directly kill people. His point was to give people a choice, survive severely mutilated or die a very grim death.  Spiral’s traps maim and kill, mostly simultaneously, you know that whoever is in the trap is dead. Credit goes to the effects and make up teams who have delivered a film that retains some of Saw’s DNA, but turns up the gross-out shock factor.

Spiral Overall Thoughts

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After watching Spiral it’s hard to decide if it’s a direct sequel or reboot to the Saw franchise. This kind of sums up the experience of watching Spiral.  It’s a film that knows the idea it was aiming for, but gets so caught up trying to be different, that it makes itself irrelevant. The ending of Spiral also causes problems as it sets itself up for a sequel, with the viewer left knowing who the protagonist is and what drives him, thus removing any further element of suspense in future films.

Spiral would have worked much better if the producers had kept with the victim point of view concept and the audience was treated to a slow reveal of the corrupt police angle, thus carrying on the lineage, protecting the suspense and not reinventing the wheel.

John Kramer was right when he said…

 “Suffering? You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet.” – John Kramer (Saw III)

The Silver Hedgehog: Rating

The Script / Screenplay - 4
Casting - 6
Sound/Music/Score - 5
Video Quality - 10

6.3

Average

It’s a film that knows the idea it was aiming for, but gets so caught up trying to be different, that it makes itself irrelevant

Find Out more about our ratings here

Credits

Words Garry Llewellyn

Editor JJ

I give Spiral an Average rating, what would you give…

End Credits

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Filmmakers Role
Darren Lynn Bousman Director
Josh Stolberg Writer
Pete Goldfinger Writer
Mark Burg Producer
Oren Koules Producer
Charlie Clouser Composer
Jordan Oram Cinematographer
Dev Singh Editor
Anthony Cowley Production Designer

Meet Garry

An office worker by day and blogger by night. Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog.  A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid film fan (noted for watching Titanic 8 times at the cinema 🤩).  Enjoys writing reviews and blogs in his spare time, and is waiting for the day he gets paid for it!

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