Sadistic and gruesome torture meets comedy club delivery in the most humorous horror film in recent memory. Spiral, the ninth installment of the Saw franchise, breaks from the mold with a decidedly different perspective. Chris Rock takes the lead as a second generation detective matching wits with a Jigsaw copycat killer. The mystery at the heart of the carnage is paper-thin with an obvious antagonist; but the narrative keeps your attention with effective cast chemistry and Rock's hilarious, edgy personality.
Spiral begins on July 4th with a police officer (Dan Petronijevic) found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances in the subway. Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Chris Rock) is stunned by the horrific death of his dear friend. Zeke has few allies in a police department rife with corruption. He testified against a crooked cop, and then paid a nearly fatal price for breaking the blue wall of silence.
Zeke is assigned a fresh-faced rookie partner, William Schenk (Max Minghella), by his exasperated captain (Marisol Nichols). She wants to rein in his impulsive antics. Zeke receives a gift box from the pig-masked killer, which leads him to a spiral symbol. The entire department fears a Jigsaw copycat is on the loose. When another dirty cop is found dead, the hunt for the Spiral killer becomes the city's top priority. As Zeke tries to uncover the identity of his vicious adversary, the game becomes deadly personal. His father, legendary Captain Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), has gone missing.
Spiral is chock full of the hideous gore that horror fans expect from the Saw franchise. There's new and disgustingly creative death devices to titillate the masses. Darren Lynn Bousman, in his fourth turn as a franchise director, knows how to fulfill grisly expectations. The pleasant surprise is Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson's input on the script. The back and forth dialogue between the characters is pretty damn funny. One scene in particular about being married to a cop had me howling. I never thought I'd be laughing out loud in a Saw movie.
A central aspect of the film might prove to be controversial. The Spiral killer targets police corruption. There is an underlying theme of unfettered law enforcement being held to account for their crimes. Chris Rock plays an honest cop in a den of deceit. He's constantly targeted for being truthful and not lying for the bad apples. This is a hot button issue in our politically divisive times. It'll be interesting to see if any fans take umbrage with the way police are portrayed.
Saw storylines have been lackluster since the second film. The mystery that drives Spiral isn't poorly handled or silly, just simplistic and easy to sniff out. My recommendation comes from the overall entertainment value. Chris Rock makes the film fun. He's a brilliant entertainer who has a positive impact. There's nothing new to the graphic violence, but a comedic approach is novel and certainly welcome. Spiral is a production of Twisted Pictures. The film will be released exclusively in theaters on May 14th from Lionsgate.