The 9th chapter of the franchise is more a thriller than a horror
I’m a horror movie fan and I loved Saw by James Wan back in 2004: it really set new standards for the genre and, to me, it had a well-deserved success. However, I always become suspicious when a huge hit turns into a franchise even when there’s still something enjoyable in the sequels, like in Darren Lynn Bousman’s follow-ups Saw II, III and IV. From 2008 on, when other directors tested themselves to expand the story, everything had already become boring. There’s only one thing that convinced me to watch Bousman’s chapter 9, Spiral: From the Book of Saw: I have a weakness for Chris Rock (Lethal Weapon 4, Bad Company) and I specifically love what he puts of his comedy background in action movies. Also, in this film he acts alongside Max Minghella (Teen Spirit, The Handmaid’s Tale) and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Coming To America, Goodfellas) so, whatever could happen, I was sure Bousman had the cast.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw will be released in Italy on Thursday, June 16, 2021, after its debut in the United States on May 14.
When I took my seat, at the cinema, I was prepared for a horror movie, but what I actually watched was a thriller with some gory scenes. Let’s go to the details.
The film starts with the 4th of July celebrations: an off-duty police officer, Marv Boswick, is enjoying the fireworks when he notices a purse-snatching and starts chasing the thief. We follow him in an active subway tunnel, with a flashlight out and his gun pointed against the unknown when he’s attacked from behind. When he wakes up, he find himself chained, suspended by his tongue from the ceiling, a mortal helmet on his head. There’s a video but no puppets this time: a man in a pig mask says Boswick used his tongue to save corrupt colleagues. He can make amends by letting the helmet tear his tongue apart or wait for the next train coming and die. Obviously the train will kill him. His friend and colleague Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks will investigate the case with a new partner, William Shenk. As they start to collect the evidence, Banks realizes that Boswick was a victim of a copycat of the deceased Jigsaw Killer. The entire police squad will work on the case, including Banks’ father and retired police chief, Marcus Banks. As the story goes on, Zeke will find out that the Jigsaw copycat is trying to attack the law enforcement.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw has a good premise and a talented acting trio to count on. Bousman tries to push the franchise to a new direction, adding more thriller elements, the only ones that make sense at this point of the story. However, there’s not enough crime analysis or action scenes to make Spiral a credible thriller, because there are too many comic lines, hip-hop music in the background and smashed body parts here and there to remind us that that the film was meant to be a horror, when actually it’s not.
Even if the directing is good, the screenplay (by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger) lacks some of the characters’ backstories (for example, the relationship between Zeke and Marcus). The bad news is that there’s not much to be scared about, the good is that Spiral won’t make you fall asleep. The film closes with a hasty, but open ending: if there’s still something to know, you’ll have to wait for the next sequel.