The news of Darren Lynn Bousman’s return to the Saw franchise in directing a spin-off tale starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson hit some time ago and horror fans have been anxiously awaiting the release of Spiral: The Book of Saw. With COVID delays and more anticipation, the film hits the eager gorehounds and rabid critics alike tomorrow. With mixed reviews likely, fans of the franchise should ignore the haters and strap in for a blood soaked and viscera covered ride that harkens to the vintage days of the series.
While the film takes place well after the death of maestro of death John Kramer, the film brings us back to familiar territory of proteges and copycats who replicate Kramer’s model. The big difference in this case is that whomever is knocking people off has specifically targeted police officers – not just any police officers, mind you, but those working in the same precinct as Chris Rock’s Detective Zeke Banks. Zeke’s a good, hard working cop that is despised by most of the cops he works with, being seen as a “rat” for turning in a dirty cop who shot an innocent witness. Zeke’s willingness to cross the “thin blue line” has earned him a career full of jabs, hardships, and hostility at work. Despite this, he’s clearly one of the smartest, toughest, and most diligent detectives on the force – always busting his ass to solve cases, even if no one is willing to help him.
Early on, we find that the targets are all cops who were dishonest and/or dirty, from testifying to help get other cops out of trouble to orchestrating far more heinous abuses of power. Detective Banks seeks help from his father – retired police chief and noted badass, Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson) – and his new partner, rookie detective William Schenk (Max Minghella, Horns, Social Network), to take the lead on finding this copycat before too many more bodies are found mutilated and maimed.
Essentially a dark and gruesome police procedural, the film features extremely graphic torture scenes that employ unique deathtraps that resemble those that fans have grown to expect in a Saw film. A unique feature of these traps that is different than most in the series is that there is seemingly never an actual escape option. If one abides the choice that is supposed to keep them alive, they seem to die just as well. In other words, choice is simply an illusion in this copycat’s grand design… but it’s likely that’s part of the point, as the manifesto presented seems to lament the fact that the victims of these abusive officers had no choice, either.
There’s a certain “clean cop vs. dirty precinct” vibe that harkens to classics like Serpico here, but the flavor is most certainly that cherry red blood and guts that Bousman and his Saw entires have always seemed to feast on. Yet, the unique position in history that we’re at – with police brutality and abuse of power front and center – does create a different type of anti-hero that John Kramer would likely be quite proud of. With a copycat killer who has some legitimately righteous indignation behind his motives, one can’t condemn his reasons nor condone his methodology. And, outside of Rock’s Zeke character, it’s hard to know if there’s a single other “good cop” in the bunch.
What is most certain is that this one delivers in both story and gore. It’s Saw through and through and that’s what fans should be most excited for. This is a highly recommended film for fans of the franchise… and those who don’t like the series should certainly steer clear and go watch something else.