Review by Camden Ferrell
Spiral is the newest film in the popular Saw franchise. The ninth installment, whose release was delayed a year, is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three previous films in the series. Despite a weak script and the series’ continuing narrative problems, this is an enjoyable film that breathes new life into the franchise.
Zeke, a detective, joins his rookie partner into investigating gruesome murders around the city. What’s interesting about these murders is that they are reminiscent of the murder scenes of the infamous Jigsaw killer. Zeke must dive deeper into this mystery to uncover who is behind the grisly murders. Like the other movies in the series, the premise is based on a series of intricate traps that are horrifyingly brutal. However, this movie is much more of a detective film than the others, and it’s a welcome change.
The writing has never been the strong suit of these movies, and this is no exception. The dialogue is forced, cheesy, and unmotivated, which is a shame considering the on-screen talent of the film. Luckily, the script is really only needed for the purposes of exposition in a movie like this, but it would have been nice to see a more developed script in what seems to be a reboot for the franchise.
The film is led by Chris Rock in an uncharacteristic role for him. As Zeke, he grapples with the character’s troubled history with the police department, and he has a much more cynical and stern performance than expected. He has a lot of charisma, but it’s never used to the film’s advantage as it fails to capitalize on how entertaining Rock is as an actor. Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella give decent supporting performances, but the movie doesn’t provide them with nearly enough material with which to work.
The movie reduces the focus on the blood and gore in order to tell a more traditional detective mystery, and it works more times than not. It benefits from not being an endless gorefest with only shock value to carry it, and it still is extremely gruesome throughout. It was more grounded in its storytelling even if it was fairly shallow as a whole.
It wouldn’t be a Saw film if it weren’t full of twists, and while this film has better twists than most entries in the series, they are still a little too predictable for my tastes. I was surprised to see the movie try and implement timely themes in its story although it felt forced to say the least. It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but the narrative could definitely be more polished.
Despite its flaws, this is still a messily fun and exciting movie. There are plenty of moments to make you squirm in disgust, and it leaves you feeling optimistic about the future of the series. It will satisfy longtime fans, and it may actually succeed in gaining some new converts.
Spiral is probably the best film since the original even if it suffers from many of the franchise’s characteristic flaws. It’s graphic, bloody, and it’s a mindlessly fun film that adults and older teenagers will absolutely enjoy watching with a group.
Spiral is in theaters May 14.