And for the ninth time of asking? Do you want to play the same game – again?
When SAW exploded into our horror lives way back in 2004, it felt like a blast of fresh air, introducing a much needed new bogeyman into the genre and offering a gory, yet satisfactory twisty tale in which we demanded more of the same deathly traps and horrific life or death situations to satisfy our needs.
Seven films later, including the obligatory “The Final Chapter” entry, all us fans had surely got our wish, even though those many twists and turns that cemented our love for the franchise had become so outlandish, that the series had become a somewhat tiresome slog that we needed a create a flow chart, just to keep up with what each sequels plot were offering to surprise us next.
The 2017 reboot JIGSAW felt like a much needed back to basics storytelling that was unfairly critically mauled on release, even though it’s $103 million box office takings on a mere $10 million budget, suggested that there was still a huge appetite for a SAW movie and now four years later, here we are with another soft reboot and yet another new new title change.
On paper, SPIRAL: The Book of SAW, promises to be different from it’s predecessors, a focus on a cop mystery than downright gore, even offering up the stellar casting of Chris Rock and Samuel L Jackson to entice us fans in believing that this will be worth a roll of a dice and to have the need to want to play this familiar sounding game for one more time. Sadly, despite the best intentions of all involved, Spiral is one of the weakest entries we have had in a long line of sequels.
Rock plays Zeke, a honest cop in the mix of many dishonest officers, who is more of an outcast in the Precient he works in, who finds himself thrust into the limelight when yet another Jigsaw copycat killer emerges from the shadows, offering the bloody body parts of his dishonest work colleagues as a dark secret, long time buried within the department starts to emerge and that somehow his father Marcus (Jackson), a retired officer himself, is linked to the murders?
Surely the obligatory franchise flashbacks will fill in the blanks?
The problem with SPIRAl is that it wants to be different from all before it, but fails in what it’s offering up as it can not help itself by falling back into the same old traps that got pretty tiresome by the time we got to our first copycat killer in the earlier SAW sequels.
The signature torture porn opening setpiece may well get the die-hard SAW fans onside, but even then, it really doesn’t serve up a much needed blast of freshness we surely deserved and you do get a sense that the gore hounds will be left scratching their heads as the plot doesn’t really offer up much more in terms of bloodshed and the endless booby traps, the franchise is well known for.
It’s brave to switch tack in offering a more leaner entry in terms of body parts, instead focusing on a police mystery and that would have worked brilliantly if the mystery itself was a tale worth telling, but honestly, the plot arc was the most frustrating thing about this whole experience.
A SAW film lives or dies by its sucker punch twisty ending, but from the very first moment the killer first appears on screen, nearly all watching will guess “it’s them!”, more so with the not so subtle clues of dialogue that is scattered around that basically makes you believe it must be a red herring, before the massive disappointing not so big “reveal” that will leave you feeling flat and downright frustrated.
Returning director Darren Lynn Bouseman makes it feel like a proper SAW film with it’s editing and style, even offering up one or two scenes that does manage to get the nostalgia flowing, one scene in particular involving handcuffs, a pipe and a familiar saw tool, played along with the riff of the jigsaw theme highlights exactly what is wrong with this entire entry.
In that despite Spiral trying it’s best to be something different and with Chrs Rock really being an engaging lead, the plot can not help itself by falling into the same old trappings of its many sequels before it, with its past glories, most notably the original film, casting a long shadow over the franchise, becoming the main bogeyman and doing more damage than John Kramer could ever do
The nostalgia value can only take us fans so far and so when the question is now asked “do you want to play a game?”, we can only shrug our shoulders and reply “nah we’ve already played that….can we play something else?.”
2 HATCHETS OUT OF 5