Among the various movies that have been delayed to Hell and back during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the ones that bummed me out the most was Spiral: From the Book of Saw. The soft reboot of the horror series starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson was originally set to premiere in theaters on May 15 of last year, and was delayed a whole year to May 14, 2021.
As such, the film has gone mostly quiet over the past year, but with the theatrical (despite vaccines being distributed, that’s cutting it a little close, if you ask me) release coming up, we have a new trailer, and it’s actually doing a lot to quell my fears about the movie after watching the Saw series lose its way over the course of its first run.
For the uninitiated, the Saw series focuses on the work of a serial killer called Jigsaw, who creates death traps that have a deliberate, illustrated means of escape. Getting out of them usually requires some level of bloodshed, but the point is for victims to escape and have a new lease on life. The first two movies did a pretty solid job of executing on this idea, but with Saw III onward, the series started to hone in on the traps as the draw, rather than Jigsaw’s message. So the gore was upped, and the games were often made inescapable in favor of ensuring the carnage played out on screen. Saw III, IV, some of VI, and The Final Chapter specifically all created scenarios where victims were at the mercy of someone else, taking away the agency that was once key to how Jigsaw operated.
That’s not to say Jigsaw at any point in these movies had a crystal clear M.O. He was also a hypocrite, shamed people for depression, would present things in double speak that set up people for failure. But there was an underlying ethos to those early films that made its premise more than just a gore fest. While there were flickers of that old understanding (Saw V might have had one of the weakest stories, but it had one of the best game set ups in the franchise), the whole thing never really got back on track.
Meanwhile, Spiral is out here not putting much focus on the games at all. Its trailers have been about characters, motives, and an underlying mystery.
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Whether or not this will amount to a good movie is yet to be seen, but it at least gives me some hope that it won’t be a weird, ultimately meaningless one-off like 2017’s Jigsaw seems to have been. The premise of the Saw franchise, when it has its priorities straight, can elevate itself beyond the torture porn. So I’m excited to see if Spiral can live up to that potential. If nothing else, what Twisted Pictures and Lionsgate are choosing to show ahead of release seems promising.