Horror fans, rejoice! The latest film in the slasher franchise Saw is almost here. Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the ninth installment in the franchise, follows police efforts to investigate a string of murders eerily reminiscent of Jigsaw’s work. Chris Rock plays one of those police officers, and rounding out the cast is Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Morgan David Jones. Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed three other Saw films, also directs Spiral.
Spiral: From The Book Of Saw releases in theaters this Friday, May 14, and critics have started to release their reviews. Let’s check out what they have to say.
Let’s start with the home team. Our very own Sean O’Connell saw the horror flick, and he rated it 2 out of 5 stars. Though he complemented the grotesque elements of the movie, he was overall pretty disappointed. O’Connell pointed out that Spiral could have totally reinvented the Saw franchise, but instead was too predictable and similar to the other films. He also noted that Chris Rock's character doesn’t suit the legendary comedian, and commented that Lionsgate could have tailored Zeke Bank’s character more to Rock’s strengths. O’Connell said:
Spiral feels like all of the other Saw movies, afraid to rock the boat too much and content to deliver exactly what the audience likely expects from it… If Spiral was meant to be the launch pad of a new Jigsaw-inspired killer carrying his or her own franchise, my interest in that endeavor has spiraled down the drain.
Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter also praised the terrifying gore in Spiral: From The Book Of Saw, but was still somewhat disappointed with the movie. One aspect she criticized was the cliched aspect of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson’s father/son storyline. She also pointed out that the themes in Spiral (“from the unreformable nature of the police department to the cost of integrity in a space that values power above all else”) are ever-so-prevalent in today’s society, but the film refuses to dive into any kind of a strong narrative. Gyarkye called the movie:
A legitimately frightening, if unevenly paced, detective thriller.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety also commented on how the storytelling of this slasher film-turned-police-corruption-thriller fails to fully confront the themes that are so relevant to the modern day. He said:
Considering that its lead actor is Black and that it’s a thriller pegged to the issue of police immorality, the film confronts that theme in a weirdly untopical, almost garishly generic way.
Katie Rife of AV Club had a bit more positive things to say about Spiral, as she complemented the nightmare-ish gore (that seems to be a common theme among these reviews!) and the acting chops of the lead cast, but she criticized Bousman’s direction. She noted that the inconsistencies and reliance on exposition really pile up. Rife said:
It’s not a waste of a concept, exactly. But it’s not the reinvention that the franchise needs, either… If the game was to see if a fresh take on a long-running franchise could survive being sliced and diced by the sequel machine, consider it lost.
William Bibbiani of The Wrap complemented the cinematography by Jordan Oram, but contrary to several aforementioned reviews, was not impressed by the death traps in Spiral, noting that they don’t leave much impact. He also criticized inconsistencies and the predictability of the film, saying:
If Spiral: From the Book of Saw works — and I am not convinced that it does — it’s because Rock, Bousman and cinematographer Oram are committed to taking this shallow material seriously. Spiral sacrifices entertainment value for respectability and in the process doesn’t quite achieve either.