Monday, May 17, 2021

Spiral Review: Can Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson breathe life into dormant franchise?

I can't say I am the world's biggest admirer of the "Saw" franchise.

I think as far as modern horror goes, I think the first "Saw" movie is a really great horror movie. But like many horror classics, it gets wrapped up in obscurity thanks to the many needless franchises. I think the horror genre is very much like the comedy genre, most movies in these genres don't need to become franchises. When I saw "Saw II" I thought it was fair, but I could see the flaws beginning to seep in. I thought "Saw III" was a pretty big pile of crap. I haven't seen any other "Saw" movies since. Whoops, scratch that, I did watch "Jigsaw" on Amazon Prime a few years ago, and I don't think it did enough to revitalize the franchise and it felt more of the same. Except it had a direct-to-video quality to it.

"Spiral: From The Book of Saw" was an idea conceived by none other than Chris Rock. Rock has been having a good quarantine time so far. "Fargo" season four may not be the best season, but Chris Rock felt like a revelation in that season. I had never seen him do so well in a dramatic role. While "Fargo" is known for its dark comedy, there is nothing hilarious about Rock's role in that season. He means business pretty much throughout and he does exceptional work. Apparently, he was a "Saw" fan and he explained his idea to an executive producer from Lionsgate Pictures in Brazil at a wedding of all places. That put into motion this new film that does do what I think "Jigsaw" tried to do, revitalize the franchise. Because its the 2020's and Hollywood has got lazy, of course the name of the game right now is revitalize what we can.

It's clear after watching "Spiral" that Chris Rock was also a fan of "Se7en" because at times it feels like I'm watching "Se7en." If you had to explain the "Saw" franchise as simply as possible. It's essentially about a serial killer who specifically targets people who don't appreciate being alive and puts them in creepy, deadly scenarios to see if they can appreciate life if they are lucky to survive. There is usually a cop or two trying to find the serial killer as well. That's essentially all the movies. In "Spiral" the Jigsaw Killer is dead. But he's spawned some copycats known as Spiral. This new killer seems to be targeting corrupt cops and the only honest cop, a man named Detective Zeke Banks, played by Chris Rock, trying to figure out why.

"Spiral" brings back the Saw-style gruesome killings, but that never appealed to me. Movies like "Saw" and "Hostile," that isn't horror to me. Some people like that blood and guts and I guess find it "scary," but that type of stuff isn't for me. That will always be torture porn to me and torture porn isn't scary to me, its sleazy and uninteresting. There are plenty of slasher movies that are scary due to their mood and atmosphere. That's the thing that gets me the most, mood and atmosphere. "Spiral" isn't a torture porn all the way through. I was shocked by how story oriented it is. Samuel L. Jackson, who is great in everything, tears up scenery with Chris Rock. Max Minghella, who you may remember from The Handmaid's Tale, is also very good here. The movie is under an hour and a half, so things are moving at a gallop, but the actors are definitely not the problem here.

Lifelong fans of this franchise will appreciate the kills. Casual fans will hopefully appreciate the acting and the characters. I think as a whole, the movie moves a little too much from the original that it feels like a "Se7en" rip-off or more of a "Saw" fanfiction than a continuation or even a spin-off. I love that Chris Rock is challenging himself as an actor, especially this late in his career. I look forward to whatever else he chooses to do in his future. When someone gets a dream project made, it has to be exciting. Maybe I'm grouchy because I never really cared about this franchise, so if you like these movies, perhaps check this out for yourself. For me, its a mixed bag of goods and bads.

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