It’s the opening night for Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the first spinoff movie in the long-running Saw horror movie franchise. While it’s not a direct sequel to the eight films that preceded it, Spiral takes place in the same universe that they do. I’m currently re-watching all of the entries in the Saw series, with Saw IV being my most recent retrospective. So, naturally, I had to see Spiral tonight, and I’m glad I did. Does this spinoff live up to my expectations? Read on to find out.
I went into Spiral expecting it to be radically different from the first eight Saw movies because the director, Darren Lynn Bousman, who was also behind the camera for Saw II, III, and IV, said that it would be. While there is a heavy dose of typical Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson humor in this movie, which does set it apart from the other Saw entries, everything else plays out like the Saw films we’ve come to know and love.
There are traps galore, and they are some of the most brutal ever. There were several where I visibly cringed and had to turn away for a few seconds because I was filled with dread about how far they might go with showing the gore. But Saw movies aren’t supposed to make people feel comfortable, so I’m perfectly fine with this.
Chris Rock does a fine job in his role, but there’s way more humor in this movie than I realized. Similar to the false expectations that were set about how this entry would be drastically different than the other Saw movies, I feel as though the expectations about Chris Rock’s role were also inaccurate. Yes, there are moments when he’s not cracking jokes, but the amount of humor, especially at the beginning, is pretty significant. I was fully expecting a substantial dramatic performance from him, and this isn’t completely that. Nevertheless, Chris Rock turns in a solid performance. And Samuel L. Jackson, as in most of his movies, is Samuel L. Jackson. Max Minghella, who I know best from The Handmaid’s Tale, did a great job in Spiral, delivering an impactful performance.
The music, scored by Charlie Clouser, was wonderful, as always, and the signature Saw theme makes a satisfying appearance. I was hoping for some of those killer transitions that Darren Lynn Bousman is known for, but none are present in Spiral. That’s a bummer, considering how entertaining those were in previous entries in the series.
As far as the story goes, it’s a typical Saw movie with detectives trying to make sense of who is behind the elaborate traps and the dead bodies. Saw movies are known for their twists, and Spiral has one. While it’s decent, don’t except some wonderfully clever curveball. There are flashbacks, piecing it all together, which is the norm for Saw films, as well as a cliffhanger ending. I should note that I really don’t like the voice on the tapes because it sounds too goofy and robotic, like a primitive text-to-speech function on an ancient piece of technology. Tobin Bell’s voice is iconic, so it’s a shame that they didn’t take the time to find a sound that was more menacing or mysterious.
I went into Spiral expecting to have a good time, and that’s exactly what I got. It was a fun Saw spinoff that didn’t feel all that different from the movies that preceded it. Spiral didn’t exceed my expectations, but I didn’t think that it would. It’s just another solid entry in one of my favorite horror movie franchises of all time, so I’m thankful for that. I hope Spiral spawns a sequel, and I hope we get a proper Saw successor too. I enjoy what this unique universe has to offer, and I hope that there are many more games to be played.