Jigsaw Killer John Kramer is in the latest “Saw” movie SAW: SPIRAL may not have risen from the dead, but the copycat that Chris Rock and his partner try in vain to catch also causes horror and goosebumps in the revival of a long-dead series. With success. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Spiral: From the Book of Saw (CAN/USA 2021)
The plot summary
Hardened detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his inexperienced partner William Schenk (Max Minghella) investigate a number of heinous murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s cruel past. The two detectives are supported by Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), a respected police veteran and father of Zeke. Without knowing it, Zeke is drawn ever deeper into the murderous secret and suddenly finds himself at the center of the morbid game of a bestial killer.
Since “Saw: Spiral” has grossed around $27 million in the USA (so far), the nine-part “Saw” franchise has become one of the most successful horror film series of all time. The films that founded the subgenre of torture porn have grossed a billion dollars to date. So far, only four other series in horror cinema have achieved this: “Alien”, “Resident Evil”, the “It” remake, which is also currently the most successful single horror film in cinema history, and James Wan’s “Conjuring” series. The film, originally titled a little more cryptically “Spiral: From the Book of Saw”, was released in the United States, where the film was released exclusively in cinemas for three weeks before it is now also available for download as a premium VOD title , an exciting head-to-head race with the latest part of the “The Fast & The Furious” saga, which was released just a few days later. And the fact that the torture film managed to place itself at the top of the box office charts despite this competition shows: Apparently the idea of giving the series a new coat of paint was exactly right, because people are still up for it. After the completely unsuccessful “Jigsaw”, with which an attempt was made in 2017 to revive the franchise, which had (actually) been dead after seven parts, the comedian and self-confessed “Saw” fan Chris Rock, who is usually known more for his funny roles, took the plunge (“Dolemite is my name”) together with the experienced “Saw” director Darren Lynn Bousman (who has already directed the second, third and fourth parts of the series) to bring the franchise out of its obscurity. If “Jigsaw” was so bad mainly because the desire for a new direction seemed to shine through, but no one involved in the project seemed to really know what it should actually look like, Rock visibly changes course and turns the dirty one into a B -Movie attitude, a horror film with a much higher quality production value and thriller focus, without ignoring why the series earned its infamous cult status: through sophisticated, fascinating and disgusting torture traps.
Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock, left) and Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella, right) at the bloody crime scene.
It’s no secret that the successful concept of the 2004 “Saw” debut, based on James Wan’s short film of the same name, originally didn’t have much to do with what the series developed into over the years. The film, which cost just 1.2 million (!) US dollars, scored points with a minimalist premise that was reminiscent of David Fincher’s “Seven” in its perfidiousness: two men chained to the walls with iron chains wake up in a filthy bathroom in the middle lies a corpse. The only way they can get out of this predicament is to cut off their own foot with a rusty saw. Parallel to this chamber play scenario, “Saw” also told the lives of the two main characters in flashbacks and the reasons why John Kramer, later known as the “Jigsaw Killer,” preferred to torture his victims to death in torture devices (probably extremely expensive in reality). or rather gives them an almost impossible way out by having his victims mutilate themselves instead of simply shooting them. In parts two to seven, the pretty devastating story surrounding John Kramer increasingly faded into the background, while his death devices became the trademark of the series. People no longer went to the cinema to follow a sophisticated crime plot, but to see what perverse ideas the directors – from James Wan to Darren Lynn Bousman to David Hackl – had come up with this time to torture their actors as effectively as possible. This much can be revealed: For torture purists, there is a lot to discover in “Saw: Spiral”. Meanwhile, fans of the original film direction will also get their money’s worth, even if the atmosphere is completely different this time.
“For torture purists, there’s a lot to discover in “Saw: Spiral”. Meanwhile, lovers of the original film direction will also get their money’s worth, even if the atmosphere is completely different this time.”
In the meantime, you don’t have to worry about the whole thing being trivialized. Chris Rock not only slipped into the role of producer and co-wrote the script, but also embodied – in a positive sense bordering on caricature – the main character of Detective Zeke Banks, who is madly looking for the Jigsaw copycat. Also in advance through the (trailer) appearance of Samuel L. Jackson (“Avengers: Endgame”) Fueled speculation that “Saw: Spiral” comes with a watering-down wink doesn’t confirm the end result. Nevertheless, the screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger (who already wrote the script for “Jigsaw”) leave the grim, pessimistic thriller terrain à la “Seven” and instead rely on a much less meaningful (and therefore often even more entertaining) atmosphere. There’s a lot of cursing and swearing in “Saw: Spiral”; And – for once – not by Samuel L. Jackson, but primarily by Chris Rock, whose iron will to find the killer is largely responsible for the high pace of the film. Rocks Zeke wastes no time during the investigation. Almost every scene reveals some new approach or clue. When another “gift” from the killer doesn’t arrive at the station, we see another person falling into the torturer’s trap – in the truest sense of the word. All of this means that “Saw: Spiral” is completely idle. Nevertheless, the happening (without credits) is not even 90 minutes long but is also packed to the brim with impressions; Every now and then you almost wish you could just take a breather for a few minutes to sort through the many clues. And yet you don’t actually need it, because even without the opportunity to organize your thoughts, the resolution behind “Saw: Spiral” becomes obvious after about half of the film, as the authors prepare it a little too obviously. Advantage: The killer’s motives can be understood surprisingly clearly, so the resolution doesn’t come completely out of nowhere or seem far-fetched (the problem of many “Saw” predecessors). The obvious disadvantage: there is no twist effect.
Clear clues for Detective Zeke Banks and his colleagues.
In order to prevent “Saw: Spiral” from coming across too much like an effeminate crime thriller on a directorial level, Darren Lynn Bousman repeatedly relies on tried-and-tested “Saw” mechanisms. A large part of the action takes place in the light; The police station is always heavily lit, and the visuals of “Saw: Spiral” only rarely remind us that we are actually dealing with a tough horror thriller. But the total of four death traps still receive their appropriate recognition for the franchise. Although everything looks a little higher quality overall, the cameraman Jordan Oram, editor Dev Singh (both of whom already worked together on “Cinema of Sleep”) and composer Charlie Clouser (creator of the legendary “Saw” theme “Hello Zepp”) ensure this typical “’Saw’ look”. At a crazy pace and with a screaming soundtrack, close-ups of the detailed trap function, shots of the “total work of art” and images of the victims’ faces distorted in fear and pain alternate. And after the well-known one “I want to play a game!”-Instructions let’s get started. Fingers are torn off and tongues are removed while they are still alive. But the most macabre scene is surprisingly one in which a body writhing in pain and the accompanying screams of agony are missing. The remains of the corpse burned into the head and the split-second flashbacks in which we see what was previously done to it are enough to cause even more discomfort than the undoubtedly original traps that we are allowed to experience in action. Despite all of this, the increased use of computer effects leaves a slightly bland aftertaste: As effective as the blood and guts spray and limbs are severed in close-up (the 18+ rating is just right here!), the exclusively haptic death traps of the predecessors simply had one little more charm, so that the pain of their victims while watching was even more excruciating.
“The visuals of “Spiral: From the Book of Saw (or simply Spiral)” rarely remind us that we are actually dealing with a hard-hitting horror thriller. But the total of four death traps still receive their appropriate recognition for the franchise.”
Despite all the predictability of the resolution: the final chord is very impressive. The social criticism that has been repeatedly hinted at before, which primarily deals with the (racist) structures of the US police, finds its perfect form here. It’s not subtle, but it gives the filmmakers’ concerns tremendous emphasis; Especially because “Saw: Spiral” – true to its predecessors – foregoes catharsis. The latest “Saw” film leaves its audience suitably frustrated. And that just fits so well with the overall theme that despite all the quality, one can only hope that there won’t be a sequel that could ruin the impact of the final sequence.
Conclusion: Darren Lynn Bousman shows how the realignment of a series works: His “Saw: Spiral” has enough borrowings from the origins of the franchise to clearly function as a “Saw” film, prevented by its tonally no longer being so pessimistic, but not at all However, the soft tone of voice conveys the feeling of “More of the Same”. The predominant digital look and the brutal mechanisms of the torture traps don’t always go together. So far, the series has been particularly convincing because of its dirty weirdness. But on the whole, this comeback, which was quite predictable in terms of content, was a success. Not only because of Chris Rock’s over-the-top performance, which is appropriate for the film, but also thanks to the strong final chord.
“Spiral: From the Book of Saw (or simply Spiral)” can be seen in USA cinemas from September 16, 2021.