Spiral: From The Book Of Saw, written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, continues the Saw franchise. Spiral follows a particularly troubling copycat who targets cops. Given real life police brutality, it’s no wonder Spiral would venture in this direction. After all, the blue wall of silence shields officers from accountability. It was just a matter of time. Chris Rock plays Detective Zeke Banks who, with new rookie partner William Schenk (played by Max Minghella), has to find out who and why the serial killer is targeting police.
Though not the first cop targeted in Saw films; however, Spiral’s serial killer is all about punishing bad cops—good cops is a contradiction. Spiral is entertaining, to be sure and has some creative torture devices that fans will cheer as they simultaneously cover their mouths in horror. It makes you lean further and further back to resist what your traitorous, refuse-to-shut eyes soak in. Albeit unintentional, the commentary on crooked police highlights the degree that police consider other cops crooked, while bending or downright breaking the rules when they ascertain it is justified. Still, Spiral is a gory splatterfest, even if it does lack surprising twists.
Darker Tones And Humor
Chris Rock is always entertaining in films and this isn’t his first role as a detective. His comedy here does feels darker, perhaps because of the delivery. Every time Chris Rock squints in an attempt to look serious, comedy specials flash in the mind. The intrusion is as glaring as a wailing, spinning police siren. It can force an inopportune laugh out during a dire situation, but the film still works. Samuel L. Jackson plays Marcus, former police captain and Zeke’s (Chris Rock) father. Marcus’ dry humor and snark makes it clear where Zeke gets his wit from and shows these two actors together are a great combo.
Their ability to come up with new methods of torture is creative, horrible and awe-inspiring. Previous Saw films largely dealt with people tortured because they didn’t appreciate and were wasting their lives. They were typically placed in a location they had to escape, but with a price. In Spiral cops pay a price for the crimes they committed. The institution entrusted with stopping crimes is culpable and no one is exempt from judgement.
Detective Zeke Banks tries to be a good cop early in his career and other officers betray him. However, Detective Banks is not above breaking the law either…or hurting someone to get information. But Spiral doesn’t want to explore the levels of depravity in police departments; just show them suffering. But let’s face it, someone watching Spiral will watch for the torture and perhaps see if they can find the twist. The pig-head baddie is not as memorable or eye-catching as Billy either.
However Spiral’s direction is worthy of applause as it attempts to rejuvenate what, initially, was a remarkable franchise that quickly spiraled out of control. The first Saw astonished viewers, myself included. Some of us reeled from the ending for weeks after seeing it. It’s impossible to capture that feeling again. But Spiral does an admirable job of moving away from later films in the series. It is a crafty, dreadful, wincing, torturous torture film and it doesn’t shirk the responsibility to dazzle—or scar—audiences with new contraptions of mayhem and bloodshed. I’d watch again. But for viewers I’ll say: “Watch or don’t. Make your choice.”
Feature photo credit: Brooke Palmer