- Hamish Hart
Spiral (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
JAMES Wan's original Saw proved to be a tremendous success both critically and commercially, resulting in a ludicrous number of sequels being created in order to capitalise off the bloody nostalgia audiences held for the 2004 horror flick. Now 17 years later the ninth instalment has been released, bringing about an explosive bomb at the box office, but are audience's disinterest in this horror sequel justified?
Determined to step out of the shadow of his esteemed detective father Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), alongside his partner William Schenk (Max Minghella), begin their pursuit of the killer behind a string of murders eerily similar to that of The Jigsaw Killer, a notorious psychopath from the city's past.
Chris Rock follows in the footsteps of comedic actors such as Robin Williams and Adam Sandler by transporting himself out his comical comfort zone and into a serious role; a refreshing career move that sadly didn't payoff for the talented comedian. His attempts at creating serious tension through subtle facial and body movements were anything but, ironically coming off more humorous than anything else. But in all fairness to Rock, his poor performance cannot fall entirely on his shoulders, especially when you consider the dreadful, inconsistent writing put forward to him.
The Saw franchise, aside from the inaugural feature, has never been known for its strong character development, typically relying on spectacle rather than storytelling, and while this has usually never been a problem for the tongue-in-cheek horror show, Spiral attempted to be much more than it needed to be, aiming for genuine drama rather than embracing the ludicrous traps and insanity that made James Wan's original a beloved horror classic for generations to come. Aside from one trap towards the climax, director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II) failed to recapture the magic of his grotesque, creative traps such as "The Death Mask" and "The Electric Staircase" from Saw II, with majority of the traps in Spiral feeling uninspired and unoriginal; much like the film itself.
As is tradition in any Saw film, there must be a twist at the end in order to trick audiences into thinking the writing was smart due to its unpredictability. However, the plot reveal was set up in a manner that made you think one character was a red herring, but in actuality, the red herring wasn't a red herring. While this could be seen as a genuine twist due to its unforeseen outcome, the reveal came off as incredibly poor, lazy writing that didn't make any sense or contain any emotional substance, but then again, what else would you expect from the writing team behind two critically-acclaimed disasters Saw 8 and Piranha 3D?
Spiral isn't the worst Saw film out there, but it comes incredibly close due to poor writing, emotionless characters and stakes, as well as lacklustre plot twists and traps. Chris Rock and Samuel L Jackson's chemistry left little to be desired as while the two veteran actors did their best with what they were given, the uninspired script and a miscast lead in the form of Rock weighed heavily against what could've been a resurgence for a franchise, that after 8 failed attempts at a reboot, should be laid to rest once and for all.