Spiral: From the Book of Saw – Film Review

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

As a big fan of the Saw franchise, I was excited for Spiral and intrigued to see what new direction this instalment was going to take it in – but I came away pretty disappointed.

The movie follows troubled detective Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Banks (Chris Rock) – who is disliked by the rest of the force for ratting out a dirty cop years before – and his newly assigned partner William (Max Minghella) as they investigate the death of one of their own team. His gruesome death seems to be the work of a copycat Jigsaw killer who is targeting the (many) corrupt members of the police force and picking them off one by one.

The Saw franchise was done to death (pun intended) and rinsed for all it was worth between 2004 and 2010 – when one was released every year – and 2017’s Jigsaw was essentially more of the same and didn’t do enough to kickstart the series once again, so I can appreciate that Rock, director Darren Lynn Bousman et al wanted to try something a little bit different and give it a new lease of life, throwing in some light comedy and some social commentary in addition to the traps and gore. And I would have been cool with that if they had nailed the execution.

I had issues with the storyline throughout the film, particularly with pacing and the use of too many flashbacks, but I still enjoyed myself – until the last 10 minutes when I felt completely let down and disappointed. The reveal of the new killer is so underwhelming. I waited for there to be another big shocking twist on top, convinced that couldn’t be all, but it was and it was so anti-climactic. Boy oh boy did they fail to stick the landing. It just felt so rushed and underdeveloped and nowhere near as exciting as a killer reveal should be. How could they make it so dull?!

Diehard fans of the Saw franchise may come away disappointed about the lack of classic Saw content. There are still some gory scenes, no doubt about that, but the amount of screen time given to watching people trying to escape the traps is considerably less. There have been so many disgusting, brutal and wince-inducing traps over the years that it must be difficult to come up with ones that are new and up to the same standard of grossness and only one sequence in Spiral made me cover my eyes because it was so stomach-churning. The rest were pretty average and I’ve forgotten about them already. And this is a random niggle, but I really missed hearing John Kramer’s voice on the tapes and TV messages. The new voice sounded weird and I didn’t like it and it made me realise how important his voice had been in those scenes.

I have always felt the Saw franchise had lost sight of its roots in favour of the headline-grabbing torture porn when the original Saw didn’t have too much of that so I’m glad that Spiral has reined it in and brought back the original cat-and-mouse detective storyline, but I think it ended up going too much the other way and being too much of a police procedural. The elements were there to make it a great film but the mystery just didn’t play out well enough, and I thought the commentary about the police and how they “shot first, ask questions later” was rather clumsy.

I wasn’t too sure about Rock leading a Saw movie when the film first began but my concerns dropped away about a third of the way into it. I thought he did a great job. I wish we had spent more time exploring his fraught relationship with his father Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson) and Jackson is generally in this nowhere near enough. I thought Marisa Nichols (Hermione Lodge from Riverdale!) was well cast as Captain Angie Garza while Minghella didn’t do it for me. I’m not convinced he was the best person for the job.

All in all, there were many aspects I liked about Spiral and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it doesn’t do anywhere near enough to justify its existence, and it’s not the strongest launchpad for potential sequels.

In cinemas now

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The cinemas are back! Here’s what you can watch

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Cinemas in England have been closed since December and I am SO excited for them to reopen tomorrow! I have missed them so much! To make up for lost time, I have got two films booked in on Monday and three overall this week.

Films don’t generally get released on Mondays, but to celebrate the return of cinemas, the following four movies were given the release date of Monday 17th May. Here’s all the info:

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Get ready for more elaborately gruesome, wince-inducing traps – the Saw franchise is back! This ninth instalment stars Chris Rock and Max Minghella as two cops who investigate grisly murders which bear an uncanny resemblance to the work of the Jigsaw killer. This instalment is said to have more comedy moments and a social justice angle, in addition to the gore.

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Taylor Sheridan‘s new thriller has an amazing cast which includes Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Jon Bernthal and Aidan Gillen. Jolie plays a smokejumper who goes on the run with a teenager murder witness in the Montana wilderness to escape a pair of assassins hired to silence him. This is my first screening tomorrow and I’m excited for it.

Peter Rabbit 2

More animated hijinks in this sequel to the 2018 family adventure. Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne return as the live-action leads, who are now married and living happily with the animated Peter (voiced by James Corden) and his family. But Peter gets restless and bored with blissful garden life and causes chaos (as always) by going to the big city.

The Unholy

And for people who like their horrors more supernatural than gory, there’s The Unholy, starring The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It follows a hearing-impaired girl who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. People flock to witness her miracles but terrifying events unfold. Sounds spooky!

Those are all the new releases but plenty of cinemas are showing some awards season films – the most popular listings are for Nomadland, Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah – new blockbusters like Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs. Kong as well as old classics.

If you feel comfortable to do so, please go and support your local cinema when you can! I personally cannot wait to switch off my phone and devote my entire attention to a movie surrounded my like-minded film fans.

Teen Spirit: Film Review

Max Minghella – who you’ll probably know from The Handmaid’s Tale and The Mindy Project – has made his writing and directing debut with Teen Spirit, which is basically a dramatisation of shows like The X Factor.

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