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Spiral: from the Book of Saw

Since 2004, the ‘Saw’ horror series blazed a bloody trail. Charting the wicked misadventures of savage serial killer Jigsaw, the franchise made buckets of filthy lucre. ‘Spiral’ is the ninth instalment attempting to bring a fresh perspective. That may be a difficult task for a long-lived series but ‘Spiral’ gives it a good go charting a deadly earnest path towards a suitably shocking finale.

Detective Ezekiel Banks (Chris Rock) and his partner William Schenk (Max Minghella) investigate a baffling case. Looking into a string of brutal murders, they discover similarities to the reign of terror of deceased killer Jigsaw. Unsure if Jigsaw cheated death or someone has taken up his vile mantle, the detectives search for answers. What they find leads them into a never-ending spiral of darkness with the outlook for survival slim.

Credit is due to those behind ‘Spiral’ in trying something different. Rather than resting on the lurid laurels of previous outings, ‘Spiral’ is a mix of police procedure and horror. It works in the former but not in the latter. Whilst grisly displays are evident, the story isn’t remotely scary – not a good thing for a horror movie. ‘Spiral’ is far more interested in character driven drama than elaborate set-pieces which doesn’t always work. It doesn’t help that the acting isn’t that great, with Rock, usually seen in comedies, giving a one-note performance throughout.

Although barely jangling the nerves, ‘Spiral’ has a good feel for atmosphere and look. ‘Spiral’ is the most expensive looking of the series as the other entries were made on a shoe-string. Those are the few genuine plusses as the lacklustre direction, bad editing and poor acting swiftly sinks an initially interesting concept. The characters and story are sound but other elements get in the way in making them fit into a cohesive and engrossing narrative.

‘Spiral’ occasionally manages to engage. That’s a disappointing comment to make given the anticipation for a new angle on an old story. ‘Spiral’ becomes uninvolving fast with even the fabled death counts not amounting to much. The ‘Saw’ series doesn’t need Jigsaw to kill it off as the makers are doing a good job of it themselves as each instalment adds another nail to its soon to be lowered coffin.

Rating out of 10: 4

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