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REVIEW: ‘Spiral’ a new face for the Saw Franchise

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Nearly four years after the last attempt to revive the famous series of torture and death traps, audiences once again find themselves with a new set of traps and a new mystery to unfold. But how does it compare with the original series?

“Hello Detective Banks. When was the last time you saw your father?”

Spiral trailer 2

Warning: Light Spoilers Ahead

I had been a SAW fan for as long as I could remember, even buying pirated, poor quality DVD’s from old high-school chums. Almost all of the deadly traps made by the vengeful, holier-than-thou Jigsaw killer are fascinating for true horror fans. The mechanics, the visceral pain they inflict on the often questionable victims, and the all-too-famous “twist” endings that add more convoluted layers to the overall story. That’s what makes them great.

I admit that I was rather skeptical after hearing and seeing Chris Rock’s involvement in directing Spiral as well as him wanting to resurrect the SAW universe from film obscurity. I admired his passion and watched the movie with high hopes and it (for the most part) did not disappoint.

The film starts with an off-duty cop played by Dan Petronijevic, a veteran of the American Pie Presents series, chasing down a perp into the nearby sewers where he is abducted by a familiar face in the SAW series–the face of a pig.

A crooked cop meets his fate

In the next moment, we find the officer dangling above the tracks only by his tongue. Following the film’s predecessors, a recorded message gives the officer a choice. He must either rip off his own tongue to save his life or suffer at the fate of the incoming train.

We find Chris Rock playing Detective EzequielZekeBanks reluctantly accepting the young rookie William Schenk, played by Max Minghella. In previous SAW movies, there had been more focus on individual officers with personal attachments and thirsts for vengeance, often making fatal mistakes along the way. Spiral, in fact, takes on police accountability as a central theme. We first see this as the entire department tease and harass Zeke, showing him their collective distrust.

As Zeke and William investigate the previous death, Detective Fitch, played by Richard Zeppieri, follows a drug addict only to find himself into the second trap of the film. He must either rip off his own fingers or face electrical execution. Fitch’s crime was of his shooting of an innocent man during a traffic stop. The grainy recorded footage brought back feelings I had seeing the recordings of George Floyd and Rodney King on major news channels.

As the film progresses, we slowly see a clearer picture of the inner workings of a corrupt, overpowered police department. The arrogance of police chief’s, like the one in the film played by Samuel L. Jackson, affect the lives of good cops like Zeke trying to set a good exmaple.

The second trap

While I do respect the film for touching upon the real-world horror of police brutality, the changes also removed many things from the old SAW films I had come to love.

The traps in Spiral get the job done and killing their victims, but we definitely don’t see enough of them here. In the old films the designs of the traps more horrific and memorable. You can feel the tears, rips, and crunches in your own body as you see them on screen. The traps of Spiral just don’t have that effect on me personally. We don’t even see the functions of one of them, just the body it left behind.

There was less blood and gore as a whole, likely to give more focus to a coherent plot and story. This gives us a chance for a closer look into Zeke’s life, his relationships, and his history with the police department who refuses to trust him. But I would be lying if I said that I don’t miss the over-the-top violence and of the older films. Another hallmark of the SAW films is the “twist” ending where the film does mental gymnastics to explain how whatever happened was a part of the Jigsaw killer’s plans years after his death. Spiral’s ending makes an attempt, but it’s pretty easy to figure out who the Jigsaw copycat is. Instead, it left me confused and asking why?

As a whole, Spiral does a good job presenting a new generation of audiences with a taste of SAW. It brings about a very important issue that is affecting communities of color and the horrors they face. But for a dedicated SAW fan, it leaves out much of the charm and nonsense that made the franchise great. If there are plans for future SAW films, I hope Tobin Bell gets a chance to make another appearance. It just isn’t a SAW film without him.

The new puppet of the copycat Jigsaw killer

Spiral: From The Book of Saw will be Available to buy on Digital on July 13th 2021. For the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD the release date will be July 20th 2021.

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Spirals

6.5

The film scores high with its added references to real-world issues. However, as it takes more approaches to set it apart from the other SAW films, it also removed some of the charm and simplicity that fans loved.

Alex Marroquin
Alex Marroquin is a budding Peruvian American writer and occasional artist from the San Francisco Bay Area. Along with successful short stories, his first horror novella, Savages for Revenge, was just released as part of the Unholy Trinity: Volume 2 anthology in December of 2019. He hopes to bringing back the crude, bizarre, and campy genres of horror from that nearly vanished from the screens and cheap paperback print after the 1980’s. In addition, Alex is an editor for HellBound Books, a publisher specializing in extreme, bizrarro, and erotic horror.

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