“Spiral”, the producers want to drill into our heads, is set in the same universe as the long-running, blood-churning horror franchise “Saw” but isn’t technically part of the series.
The film-not-known-as-Saw-9, then, might be viewed as both a starring vehicle for Chris Rock (in a rare dramatic turn) and spin-off of a horror series that, let’s admit it, was starting to suffer from a ghastly case of crusty crack. But is it really that different from “Saw”, and it’s seven sequels, that it needed to be separated from its parent?
Like Fincher’s “Se7en”, the pic fixes on a couple of cops (Rock, Max Minghella) who are investigating a series of grisly murders that resemble creative killings of the past.
Despite the insistence to bill as a standalone, director Darren Lynn Bousman and writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger sensibly retain the tried-and-true elements that made the “Saw” films as successful as they’ve been. The iconic villain of those films mightn’t be anywhere in view, and there’s no direct connection to any of the eight films in the series either but those clever, grotesque traps, the twisty final act, and misleading character arcs that we’ve become to expect from the make a bloody, bold return.
While it’s the only film in the ‘franchise’ to be built upon its stars – markedly, Rock, who also reportedly came up with the idea for the film but also Samuel L.Jackson, playing second fiddle as the copper’s pop – “Spiral” isn’t as dissimilar and disconnected to “Saw” as the producers want us to believe.
Where “Spiral” feels like the others is in its in ability to both disturb and delight horror fans in its wonderfully executed traps. Almost obligatory, the fleshy, bloody kill sequences – complete with mysterious host and creepy puppet – fill the frame for at least 40 of the film’s 95-minute runtime.
On the other hand, “Spiral” is also a police procedural drama. As interested in those traps as it is in the aftermath, investigation and motive, the film looks and plays like a gritty, Clinton-era serial killer thriller – most markedly, “Se7en”.
Much of the credit goes to Rock, whose passion and investment in the character and source material, serves as much of the glue.
It’s immediately evident Rock wanted to make a horror movie that also has a message. The social commentary here plays loud and clear, and it’s a smart move – even if the screenplay isn’t quite the match for the logline.
You see, though more sophisticated, and offering up something “different” to the “Saw” films, Stolberg and Goldfinger’s script is also guilty of underestimating the intelligence of its audience. If you don’t guess the outcome of the film within the first 30 minutes, you’re not a big movie watcher.
Small beef aside, “Spiral” still runs rings around most other horror films of late.
Lionsgate goes all out- not surprisingly; they really are a leader of the pack when it comes to physical releases – with this superb-looking, extras-clad release.
Going against the grain, there’s not just one but two audio commentaries here – and they’re both sublime. Director Darren Lynn Bousman, Co-Screenwriter Josh Stolberg and Composer Charlie Clouser feature on the first, while Producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg carry the second. Stolberg is a hoot, make sure to give the former a listen first.
There’s an exhaustive 5-part making-of called ‘The Consequences of Your Actions : Creating Spiral’ on here that’s well worth checking out (after the film, for obvious reasons). A lot of great insight into how this movie came together and how they pulled off those icky sequences.
There’s also a couple of brief featurettes, running 8:25 and 6:12, respectively, and trailers for the film.
I’d suggest you put this on a ‘must pick that up!’ list.