A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw.

Cast: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Morgan David Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Johnson, Dan Petronijevic, Richard Zeppieri, Eddie Inksetter, Christopher Tai, John Tokatldis

Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger

In anticipation for Spiral: From the Book of Saw, I made sure to read the plot for Jigsaw, the previous film in the franchise, and the only one I hadn’t watched. It wasn’t necessary at all, and truth be told, I’m still okay with having skipped Jigsaw. As much as it can be, Spiral is a fresh start for the franchise, with little connecting it to the larger Saw franchise other than the blood, gore, traps, and a mention of John Kramer. 

Spiral begins with a detective led down into the subway before being knocked out. They awaken in the middle of the tracks, their two feet on a stool and their tongue trapped inside a barbaric metal contraption. A TV flickers to life in the corner, and a small pig puppet appears. “I want to play a game,” it says as the roar of a train can be heard in the distance. 

The next day the gruesome remnants of the body are found, and Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) is called in to investigate with his new partner, Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella). Zeke is a lone rider with a chip on his shoulder following an event years earlier where he turned in a crooked cop in his precinct. A choice he doesn’t regret but hasn’t made him any friends at work. Following dental records, Zeke and the police quickly learn that the murdered man in the subway was a cop. There’s also delivery of package right to Zeke’s desk ala Seven, which begins the chase for a sick cop-killer. As more cops start getting captured, tortured, and killed in brutal traps inspired by the Jigsaw Killer, it becomes a race against the clock to find who’s pulling strings. 

Alongside the starring Chris RockSamual L. Jackson appears briefly in this film as Zeke’s father, making this the most high-profile Saw film to date. Both do a lot of yelling, which in Jackson’s case, he has perfected — Rock not so much. It’s been reported that the idea for this film was Rocks’ idea, but he’s miscast in this film. There’s an odd mix of comedy that is touched-up or written by Rock, but it’s weirdly dated. Zeke’s first appearance is a long monologing bit about Forest Gump. Zeke is just not likable, and Chris Rock doesn’t help as he turns on a dime from making his best ultra-serious detective impression to high-energy non-stop yelling. At times Spiral feels like it’s a parody of both the Saw franchise and Seven


Suppose you watch these films for the traps and gore only; you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of moments to make you wince in Spiral. I wanted to look away or close my eyes during one of the torture traps. Although the traps deliver pain in plenty, I was disappointed in their designs. In that department, the franchise still feels like it’s run out of steam, and we’ve seen just about everything you can show without making the film NC or unrated. 

Under all the attempts to be a successful Saw entry and live up to the shock value of the previous films is an interesting hard-boiled detective film. Spiral does introduce some genuinely intriguing ideas to the franchise but doesn’t do anything with them. There are scenes given to Zeke and his father to build up their tumultuous relationship, but the film, for the most part, goes nowhere with them.

Even if I guessed the film’s direction about halfway through, the ending was still a shocking conclusion. Spiral isn’t a once-off, and the film clearly sets up at least one sequel, but I’m not sure I want to watch it without some severe shack-up behind the scenes. Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV) returning to direct sounded great on paper, but his style is overused and uninteresting. Writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger may be suited to writing a Saw film, but not this new franchise. This is Spiral now, and if this revival is to succeed in the future, it’ll do well to separate itself from the Jigsaw lineage.