Don’t Get It Twisted: ‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ Takes The Franchise to a Whole New Level

spiral-web
Felipe Bustillo

I took a look at theaters near me to compare movie showtimes and settled on going to the 6 p.m. movie showtime for the opening night of the new movie release Spiral: From the Book of Saw at the IMAX theater near me in Fort Lauderdale. 

I dragged my comedy-loving boyfriend with me and I think he might break up with me.

Kidding. I think? It’s unclear at the moment, but when we got home, he said to me, “There was one point during a really gory scene when I was cringing and watching through my fingers and I looked over at you and you were like this…” Then he pretended to be me, on the edge of my seat with hands folded calmly, looking up at the screen in wide-eyed wonder… SMILING. 

What can I say? I’m practically desensitized to gore at this point. The Saw franchise was the introduction to my horror obsession. Talk about getting thrown into the deep end! I recall binge-watching Saw I-VI for the first time from the top bunk bed of a college dorm room with friends who I then went with to see Saw: The Final Chapter in theaters when it came out around Halloween 2010. 

Needless to say, I am so glad I chose Spiral as the first movie to see in theaters after well over a year of streaming cinema at home. There’s nothing like walking into the dark auditorium and settling into your carefully selected seat with a bag of movie theater popcorn the size of your face.

Director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV) made an epic return for Spiral as well, and horror fans are living for it. 

Do you need to watch the first eight Saw movies before going to see Spiral?

The horror fanatic in me is screaming YES, but the real answer is no. While Darren Lynn Bousman provides several Easter eggs in this ninth installment of the franchise that real Saw fans will appreciate, the plot is 100% standalone. 

John Kramer’s legacy lives on in Spiral with the overall theme remaining consistent – bad people play game… if lose game… die painful death. However, pretty much everything else is new territory. 

Let’s break it down: 

The title? This chapter of the Saw series is the first without the word “saw” in it. But don’t get it twisted, “spiral” is not random by any means. The famous red spiral symbol has appeared many times over the years, but the detailed explanation for what it represents in this latest film is not revealed until the final minutes.

The “Jigsaw” copycat killer? No ties to John Kramer. That’s all I’ll say on that. 😉 

The games and traps? While Kramer-inspired, also new. As I said before, I have grown rather accustomed to the gory vibes true horror fans know and love, but Spiral admittedly got a couple squirms out of me. 

The victims? All cops. While the specific motive is a mystery until the very end of the film, it becomes clear early on that someone is targeting corrupt members of the local police. 

Even the voice that explains the rules of each game is new! In all of its predecessors, the famous question has always been asked through the voice of John Kramer: “Want to play a game?” After John Kramer’s death, the copy-cat killers often used software to make their recordings sound like Kramer. But, Spiral’s killer said… new voice, who dis? 

And last but not least, the entire cast was new and they all understood their assignments. 

Speaking of which, can we just talk about comedian and actor Chris Rock for a second? There is nothing like a good laugh in the midst of a dark and twisted horror film to lighten the mood, and Chris Rock was the vessel of humor in this one. Sometimes it can be hard to take actors like this seriously when the script flips back to intense, but Chris Rock executed on all fronts.

Chris Rock stars as Detective Zeke Banks who is an outsider in his own department and has been burned too many times to trust anyone, even his own brothers and sisters in blue. He is partnered with rookie William Schenk, played by Max Minghella whose performance was also *chef’s kiss* incredible.

Mark my words, Spiral is going to be a game-changer for Minghella’s acting career, if his role as Nick Blaine in The Handmaid’s Tale hasn’t been already. Samuel L. Jackson and Marisol Nichols (Riverdale) were also impactful casting choices, and you already know they had to give Samuel L. Jackson a dramatic line you don’t want to miss: “You wanna play games, motherf***er? Alright.” Classic.

Was Spiral good or gory?

First of all, bold of you to assume it can only be one. One of my Twitter followers asked me if Spiral was “good or super super gory,” to which I replied, “it was good AND gory 😬😬😬.” Bousman even admits, “We got the NC-17 [rating] eleven times. We had to keep going back and re-cutting the movie to try to get it to be acceptable for an R-rating.”

The Saw movies are often dubbed as “torture porn,” and while there are moments that make me question my sanity and why I am so unbothered by them, they are so much more than that. 

John Kramer, the original serial killer of the series, chooses victims who he thinks need to be reborn. He designs intricate games with deadly traps and urges the players to follow the rules closely. From that point, the choice is theirs: live or die. In order to live, they have to make a substantial sacrifice and if they can pull it off before the time runs out, they “win” the game and survive. By Kramers’ vision, this is supposed to give them a new appreciation for life. 

What makes the Saw movies so special to me are the continuously intertwining storylines and unexpected twists. Just when you think you have it figured out, the writers are like BET… and you’re left with your jaw on the floor. 

Spiral did not let me down in this regard. I only whispered two things to my boyfriend while watching this movie. The first, “That’s the guy I love from The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the second was, “I think it’s him.” I was DEAD WRONG, btw.

Is Spiral worth seeing in movie theaters? 

Yes, YES! A million times yes. Spiral is not being released on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any other streaming service – it is a new movie release exclusively in movie theaters and IMAX. After at least 14 months of watching movies on a 55-inch screen, I decided to go big or go home with an IMAX experience, and it did not disappoint. 

Whether you’re a diehard Saw nerd like me, or just looking for a horror movie to see in theaters this weekend, consider this my recommendation. From the impressive cinematography to the masterful performances from a fresh cast, Spiral is the most captivating new horror film of the year.

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