A mysterious package arrived at my house over the weekend, and it gave me pause. There was a weird, crudely drawn circular shape on it, with hints of a pig-faced man beckoning me with a game. No, I wasn’t trapped in a horror film, but it WAS the Blu-ray of SPIRAL arriving for me to review!
As I mentioned a few months ago when I initially saw the film, I very much enjoyed it. I was anxious to check it out again to see if it held up with a second viewing at home, and oh boy, did it ever! At the end of its 93-minute running time, I am happy to report that not only was the second viewing great, but I dare say it was even better this time around. Watching it with the advance knowledge of whom is behind it all allowed me to pick up on and see clues I missed during the first viewing, and it made me appreciate the film even more.
The story is simple enough; a brash, young detective named Zeke (played by Chris Rock) not only lives in his retired police captain father’s shadow but is also still dealing with abuse from his peers for putting away a dirty cop years before. When a murder reminiscent of the original Jigsaw killer gets on his radar, he takes the case. Along with his rookie partner, Zeke soon finds himself at the center of a new killer’s morbid game. And because it is SAW, you know that game is going to be pretty gnarly.
The subtitle (SPIRAL: From the Book of SAW) is true to the nature of the film. While, yes, this is connected to the films of the past, it certainly stands on its own. Hell, you don’t even need to know what happened in the other films; just that Jigsaw killed people in increasingly messed up ways. This new film takes off in a whole new direction and sheds the complicated mythology of the franchise for some brand-new terrors.
Chris Rock is fantastic here, taking on a more dramatic role than we are accustomed to seeing him in. Don’t get me wrong, he still has some hilarious quips throughout the movie (the opening bit about Forrest Gump had me in tears yet AGAIN), but he carried a lot of weight from his character’s past, and it showed. I was thoroughly impressed with how he navigated each scene and from the first moment we see him, all the way through the end, he kept me entertained. The other big name joining the franchise (and chewing scenery) is none other than Samuel L. Jackson. While more of a supporting character, he definitely made his presence felt as an integral part of the story. As father and son, I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic between Jackson and Rock, and honestly hope these two get teamed up further.
Of course, there isn’t much I can say about the story itself without wanting to spoil it for you, but I was impressed with how it was crafted. As these films often do, SPIRAL keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time and keeps you guessing at who was behind this new crop of crimes & why. This second viewing, it was great to see how they layered this surprise in, with visual clues trying to key viewers to what is really going on.
The SAW films have a way of showing off seemingly meaningless things or sprouting innocuous bits of dialogue, only for them to come back around later on in a major way, and that is still the case here. However, SPIRAL does it even better than before, with each reveal carrying a gigantic amount of weight. Everything ties together quite nicely in SPIRAL, every moment matters. That’s to the credit of writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, who weave one of the best entries of the franchise here.
Also returning to the series is director Darren Lynn Bousman, who helmed the early (and best) SAW sequels. Bringing Bousman back was a great move because he knows the material better than anyone at this point, but he also was able to make it feel new again. Bousman knows the trappings, the camera moves, and every classic bit we love from the earlier SAW films and brought them back with none of the additional baggage. He helped change the game for SAW, and it’s only natural that they brought him back to reinvent it. SPIRAL truly is a fresh new start for the franchise, and I am excited to see where it goes from here.
The disc touts a ton of special features, featuring not just one but two commentary tracks. The first, with director Darren Lynn Bousman, co-screenwriter Josh Stolberg, and composer Charlie Clouser was actually pretty entertaining. Darren and Josh have worked together before, and their friendship came across here, and the addition of Charlie to speak to the music was great. I enjoyed hearing a bit more about the nuances of the story from the three of them. As someone who grew up listening to commentary tracks, this is definitely one of the best.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the second commentary track, from producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg. Nothing against them, but compared to the first, this one came off a little dry. Still, there are some good tidbits hidden in here, so it’s worth a listen overall.
In addition to that, the disc also features three special features: The Consequences of Your Actions: Creating Spiral, Drawing Inspiration: Illustrated Trap Breakdowns, and Decoding the Marketing Spiral. Each showcases a different aspect of the production, from the pre-production all the way through marketing. While “Creating Spiral” is your typical EPK fare, I really enjoyed the illustrated trap breakdowns and seeing just how they came up with the twisted ideas. And since my full-time job is in marketing, the “Decoding the Marketing Spiral” feature was a fun treat as well. Rounding out the disc is also the Theatrical Teaser Trailer and the Theatrical Trailer.
All in all, SPIRAL is a must-have for any SAW fan, and for horror fans in general. It’s a great film, and one that definitely warrants multiple viewings so you can appreciate the love and care that went into it.
SPRIAL is available now on Digital, and on July 20th on 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, & On Demand.