Spiral: From the Book of Saw, by Cameron J. Czaja

Hello readers of The Legionnaire, I want to play a game. Well, maybe not a game, but I do have a question: do you know what was one the most successful horror series to come during the 2000s that was more about gore than horror? If you thought of the Saw franchise, then you are correct, and the film that I’m going to be talking about is the spin-off from the series: Spiral: From the Book of Saw, or simply just called Spiral.

If you haven’t seen a Saw film, which I’m guessing most of you haven’t, then the premise of the series is simple. It started out with a serial killer named John Kramer played by Tobin Bell (also known as the Jigsaw killer or simply Jigsaw). Jigsaw was not a typical serial killer. Instead of attacking his victims head on, he would put them in traps (which he would call tests) and allow his victims to escape. However, this would come at a price as the victim would have to sacrifice something of themselves (i.e., a part of their body) in order to escape from the trap, which would result in a bloody mess. The twist here is that Jigsaw doesn’t pick his victims at random. Instead, his picks those who have wronged people in their lives, or those who don’t value life whatsoever. Think of him of the most corrupt pro-life activist ever, which is something I thought I would never say about a serial killer. In the third film, Jigsaw dies yet the series continues with other people carrying on his work and copying his methods. This is what happens in Spiral.

Despite giving that detailed description of the Saw franchise, I actually haven’t watch many of the films. The only ones I’ve seen in their entirety are the second and fifth ones. Others I’ve seen parts of or just read about them. I would’ve watched all of them (which is nine at this point), but much like the Paranormal Activity films, once you’ve seen one you’ve pretty much have seen them all. Spiral, however, was a Saw film that had my curiosity because it had two big stars attached to the project, which are Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. This is a big deal as the Saw series is known for not having any big stars in them. Another was that Chris Rock is not only in it, but he’s also an executive producer and writer. I was wondering if an outsider of the franchise would change the direction of the series for the better. Was that the case here? Let’s find out.

In Spiral we follow Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a cop who has trouble following rules in his precinct. After one incident, his superior, Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols), decides that he needs a partner. Enter William Schenk (Max Minghella), a top of his class at the academy cop, who is eager to work with Zeke despite Zeke not wanting to work with him. Nevertheless, Zeke still ends up with William and their first assignment together is to investigate a death in the subway. After investigating and identifying the victim, they discover that it was a cop from the same precinct who was close friends with Zeke. Frustrated, Zeke decides that he wants to lead the case and after several arguments between him and his boss, he gets his way. Soon afterwards Zeke gets a flash drive with a video on it containing a clue as to what happened to Zeke’s friend. After watching the video, Zeke begins to notice how similar it was to the Jigsaw killings, and he learns that the killer is replicating Jigsaw’s murders. As the movie goes on, more cops are killed by this mysterious killer, and Zeke and his team realize that cops are the ones being targeted. Zeke begins to wonder who will be next and if he’ll be the next victim in this mysterious killer’s scheme.   

So, after watching Spiral I can defiantly say that this is the best film in the Saw series that I have seen. Granted, I have only seen the two other films that I already mentioned, but this was one that kept my interest from start to finish. That being said, as a film by itself it is one that I had problems with as it’s riddled with stuff you’ve seen from not only cop movies, but cop television shows in general.

When I went into Spiral, I was intrigued for not only the reasons I mentioned, but I was curious on they would reinvent for the Saw franchise. After eight films you would think they would do something different right? Well, they sort of did but not to the degree that I wanted. Then again, it’s hard trying to do something new with a franchise with a niche plot. I guess the biggest difference between Spiral and the last eight Saw films is that you have two big actors in it (Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson) and they definitely show their presence in the film. If you ask me about who the actors were in the other Saw films that I have seen, I would not remember them to save my life. But I remember Rock and Jackson, who plays Marcus Banks, based on screen presence and charisma (mostly with Jackson’s role) that they provide. In the end, however, a Saw film will do what it does best, which is feature scenes of torture just for shock value that doesn’t do much for me these days.

I honestly wish I had more to say about Spiral, but other than the minor changes it’s pretty much a formulaic Saw movie about people getting killed in traps with few surprises unless you’ve never seen a Saw film. I probably would’ve enjoyed it had more of a pro-life angle like some of the previous films had (even though it’s a twisted pro-life message), but the clichés and over-the-top torture scenes are still things that make this an uncomfortable viewing experience.

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