Film Review

Spiral: from the book of cheap, lazy Saw rip-offs

There’s a part in Spiral, the new attempt to resuscitate the Saw franchise, where Samuel L. Jackson’s tough guy police captain bellows out something to the killer like “You wanna play games mothafucka, alright, I’ll play!” I was immediately reminded of the part in Scary Movie 4 that parodies Saw with Shaquille O’Neill and Dr. Phil trapped in one of Jigsaw’s dungeons, played for utmost comedic effect. Now, if I make that kind of association to a Saw film that’s supposed to be taken seriously it’s really not a good sign and is a dead indicator of just how inexcusably, punishingly bad this film is, a true spiral of the downward variety. If you’re going to take property like Saw, which has an incredibly detailed and specific lineage and one of the most die-hard franchise fandoms out there, if you’re going to rework that and fashion it into something that’s supposed to nostalgic yet fresh, something that must hold the connective tissue to the lore steadfast yet also open up new neural pathways in the mythology you better make sure you’re on your A-game and come up with something special and…. this is what they fucking did? Really? First of all, Chris Rock and Sam Jackson just don’t fit the bill, I’ll say it. As a father son duo of detectives who work in a precinct packed with morally shady cops (them included) they just seem to stand out in the worst way. Rock is alternatively manic and withdrawn, every note he chooses is off-key, while Jackson just seems bored and confused. Everyone else is miscast, from Hungarian-American bombshell Marisol Nichols as their worried lieutenant to MacMurray from freaking Letterkennny as an ill fated cop from their team who looks like he just walked out from a high stakes poker game aboard a Mississippi paddle-wheeler boat. And as for the identity of the killer? It’s fairly obvious who it is in the first ten minutes of the film, which was a massive letdown. Also the thing is just so bizarrely over-lit, like every scene is just weirdly bright, and even the underground or dungeon scenes that should feel murky and shadowy still have this odd fluorescent sheen, it’s like their gaffer was packing every illuminating device from an aircraft carrier in his gear trailer. As far as ties to the John Kramer jigsaw murders go and any respects paid to the franchise overall, it’s just lazy coincidental conjecture and bad, half assed writing. Like, why did this even need to be a Saw related film? Why did they need to shoehorn the trademark vicious booby trap aesthetic into their dumb, overcooked, predictable cop killer whodunit? And furthermore who thought it was a remotely good idea to add a bunch of silly rap songs to the soundtrack and smother any atmosphere they hoped to generate almost as badly as the lighting does? I suppose they knew they needed some kind of brand name to juice up their lifeless script and try to distract viewers from how much they didn’t even try. Pure shit.

-Nate Hill

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