Spiral (2021) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Spiral (2021) Review

Horrorific content by Ted By Dawn on October 25th, 2021 | Movie Review | Survival, Thriller, Revenge, Featured Maniac, Survival Game

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It's about a police officer tormented by a copycat of the infamous Jigsaw Killer, whose sinister game is targeting the city's notoriously corrupt police department.

Spiral was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (who also directed Death Of Me and St. Agatha) and stars Samuel L. Jackson (from Kong: Skull Island, Cell and 1408), Max Minghella (from Horns and The Darkest Hour).

The Game Begins Again

Spiral (20211)  Review

Spiral is a movie that nobody "saw" coming. A Saw spin-off executive produced and starring both Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson? It sounds like something you would come up with in a fever dream after being mildly disappointed by 2017's middling Jigsaw.

Yet, here we are, watching Chris Rock's Detective Zeke Banks hunt down the latest serial killer inspired partially by Tobin Bell's Jigsaw Killer, but mostly by David Fincher's Se7en. Spiral is still structured like a Saw movie, as a lead character traverses numerous painful traps in order to uncover the twist waiting for them at the end of the movie, but it leans heavier into the police procedural than any of the Saw movies before it. We step outside of the dingy warehouses and dirty basements and experience more of the outside city, akin to movies like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop.

Spiral's greatest asset is that it does have some fresh ideas. The story goes beyond the scope of a typical Saw movie, opting for a broader social commentary on the accountability of police (certainly a timely discussion, given the discourse around law enforcement in 2020/2021). The previous Jigsaw motifs; such as the pig mask, the puppet and the titular spiral, are reworked in clever new ways to give this new Spiral killer their own identity that sets them apart from previous Jigsaws. The traps are also overhauled, retaining the visceral quality of the previous entries' but with a more straightforward design that effectively evokes the series before it became a carnage-laden theme park ride.

And yet, Spiral is a frustratingly inconsistent movie in practically all aspects. While the script presents some interesting ideas, none of them are particularly fleshed out in a satisfying way. The third act is particularly messy, featuring a predictable twist and a needlessly complicated conclusion. While the cinematography is more stylish, the editing is flat-out obnoxious, leading to occasional blatant continuity errors and moments of unintentional hilarity. While the soundtrack effectively introduces more of a hip-hop influence with tracks from 21 Savage and Young Nudy, the score by Charlie Clouser is just uninspired, with his once iconic theme playing practically on autopilot at the end.

Spiral's biggest problem is that it is a hard movie to get enthusiastic about. As the Saw series enters a new decade, it is a bit disheartening to see it have such an identity crisis between trying new ideas and falling into the same tired old tropes. And, while Spiral certainly offers enough for an enjoyable horror movie experience, it's easy to feel like we've seen it done before (and better).

Worth Watching? 

This movie is worth a watch as long as you temper your expectations. If you're a fan of the Saw movies, or even if you have an interest in the whole deadly games sub-genre, Spiral certainly has enough for you to enjoy as Chris Rock charismatically works his way through some neat little set-pieces. However, you're still ultimately getting a fairly mid-tier Saw movie that you'll more-than-likely be ten steps ahead of.

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