Spiral is a messy, gory film, incoherent in its characterisation and politics while relying heavily on twists telegraphed a mile out. In short: it’s a Saw sequel. With Darren Lynn Bousman – who directed the first through third sequels – at the helm it’s an archetypal Saw sequel in pretty much every respect. For me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I admit some PTSD from my Saw marathon writeup), but if you’re not already on board nothing’s going to convince you to join the party.
Sure, the star wattage is a little brighter with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson – as a father-son pair of cops – in the lead, but there’s no real surprises here. (Genuinely; I saw the twist coming fifteen minutes in, and I’m typically shocked by Saw’s twists.) Setting the film around corrupt cops is fertile ground for nuanced commentary, particularly with two black men running the show, but that opportunity is wholly squandered.
This might sound like a negative review, but honestly I kinda dug it? The lack of ambition – and the cut-to-the-bone runtime – are deeply appealing in the ninth film in a franchise like this, and there’s something nostalgic about Bousman’s urinary, ‘Nine-Inch-Nails’-Closer-music-video-was-a-formative-moment-for-me’ aesthetic. Adequate!