With Jigsaw, the Saw series had a villain who was as creative as he was driven by a twisted sense of morality. He was a character able to shock with both violence (needle pit!) and dramatic flair (the corpse wasn’t a corpse!). It’s a shame then that Spiral is both uninspiring and more of the same. Motivated by Jigsaw’s past killing spree, a copycat killer starts brutally bumping off cops. Chris Rock’s Detective Zeke and his new partner Schenk follow the clues while the body count of their colleagues rises.

Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, playing Zeke’s dad Marcus, bring some star power to a series that relies on its trademark elaborate torture over names on a poster. Both are the film’s strongest asset, even if it is more for emphatic swearing than any sort of emotional heft. If there is enjoyable dialogue embellishing by Rock and Jackson, it’s lost among all the tropes of a pedestrian procedural. It’s stunning just how boring much of Spiral is, with a screenplay that feels like nothing more than a police drama placeholder to be punctuated by gruesome crime scenes.

After nine instalments in 17 years, audiences know to expect a kind of sadistic Taskmaster. The copycat’s ‘games’ follow the same structure as Jigsaw’s and, by the time Saw X is released, will be the only thing to define Spiral besides its casting. Alone, they aren’t enough to elevate a film in a series where this is par for the course.

They do stand out in a genre that has largely moved away from this kind of horror, and Spiral may be the reason why; no amount of inventive suffering makes up for something so lacking in narrative effort. Better in theory than execution as many of the Saw films are, Spiral is a disappointment.



CAST: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols

DIRECTOR: Darren Lynn Bousman

WRITERS: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger

SYNOPSIS: A Jigsaw copycat killer is targeting cops as part of his gruesome games, while a detective and his rookie partner struggle to keep up.