Time isn’t always on your side.
There has been a lot of intrigue in the last couple of years for the “Saw” spinoff film “Spiral.” The “Saw” franchise has spawned eight films in the last 15 years, and just when it seemed the series had run out of steam, Lionsgate decided to move forward with a new installment. What made this decision so interesting (or puzzling, depending on your perspective) was putting famed comedian Chris Rock in the lead role of a horror film.
It isn’t often that Rock takes a role outside his comedic niche, so when he wanted to branch out into horror, many wanted to see if it was a misstep or a new career route. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences had to wait a full year past the planned release date of May 2020 to get an answer to that question. After finally seeing “Spiral,” audiences likely won’t be looking for more of Chris Rock or the “Saw” franchise in the future.
Within minutes, “Spiral” unleashes tidal wave of conflicting themes that even seasoned moviegoers will have a tough time digesting. It opens with the textbook “Saw” setup of “wanting to play a game” then transitions into Rock doing a comedy routine between the sounds of rap music, only to drop audiences back into the story expecting them to take Rock seriously as a hard-nosed, by-the-book cop.
“Saw” movies thrive on being able to keep audiences guessing until the very end. Not being able to tell who the killer is and how he gets away with setting up the traps is a large part of the draw. “Spiral” is so by-the-numbers that anyone with average intelligence will guess the killer within the first 30 minutes. The only surprise here is being shocked at figuring out the entire plot of the film about an hour before everything is revealed.
Along with being painfully predictable, the plot relies on trained police officers doing things that they would simply never do. The combined weight of inconsistency and predictability turns a huge opportunity into a failure to truly reboot a long-standing film series.
“Spiral” was supposed to be the jolt to shock life back into a dying franchise. In the end, it only strengthens a lack of faith in Hollywood’s ability to recreate cunning and original entertainment in the modern era.