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Spiral: From the Book of Saw Reviews Say Bloody Reboot Falls Short Of Potential


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Early reviews for Spiral: From the Book of Saw are up, and while some of them praise the new film’s attempts at changing up the franchise formula, the consensus is that the film ultimately falls short. Spiral stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson alongside Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, Zoie Palmer, and Genelle Williams. The film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and releases in theaters on May 14.

Though the Saw series claimed it would end in 2010 with the release of Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, the Jigsaw Killer returned to the big screen in 2017 with the aptly titled Jigsaw – a soft reboot that ultimately failed to gain the franchise any serious new acclaim. With Spiral, Lionsgate has taken a more complete reboot approach, distancing the film’s storyline further from the events of the original movies and introducing a number of new characters. So is this the revitalization Saw fans have been waiting for?

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RELATED: The Saw Franchise Needs To Evolve Beyond John Kramer

According to early reviews, not exactly. While Spiral makes a valiant attempt at introducing some fresh ideas and slightly loftier themes to the body horror series, it ultimately falls short of giving Saw the major boost it needed to regain relevance. Still, it sounds like fans of the franchise will enjoy what the new movie has in store. Check out what the critics are saying below.

Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

“Rock isn’t good, but he’s interesting. Jackson is a welcome addition, as he and Minghella chew what little scenery they can find in the bare warehouses and sewers of Spiral. But the film is, fittingly, a trap. A sick game, luring those of us intrigued by Rock’s performance in Fargo into the same ol’ bear trap we should’ve expected from the start. Spiral might have rhetorical wrinkles that set it apart from its predecessors, but this franchise is still going around in circles.”

Rob Leane, Radio Times

“With a new villain established and a grownup theme explored, by the time the credits roll on Spiral – with a very unique track playing over the closing credits – you may well feel like you’d want to return to this world for more. Hopefully, if a sequel is forthcoming, it can up the horror ante somewhat whilst continuing to cover fresh topics. Spiral is a strong start and the games, hopefully, are not over.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Yes, these are life lessons! And no, the “Saw” series hasn’t really changed. So depending on whether you’re a fan or not, eat up…or throw up.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“But if the basic feel of the franchise hasn’t changed — it’s still ugly and cheap and thoroughly uninterested in getting branded as “elevated horror” — the idea to extrapolate Jigsaw’s schtick toward societal problems is a smart one. If nothing else, “Spiral” is the first “Saw” movie in a very long time that might leave people open to the idea of seeing another one.”

Siddhant Adlakha, IGN

“A sequel that hopes to court Saw fans and mainstream audiences alike, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is likely to alienate them both. It’s a hollow imitation of the series, unable to meet its most basic visual and narrative expectations. It’s also a bad film in general, which tries to tell a socially relevant story that it can’t seem to handle.”

Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“But these flashes of inspiration only serve to make the whole more disappointing, especially when Spiral tries the classic Saw ending and lacks the wow factor. (If you're a Saw fan, it's probably best not to think about the inevitable twist as you'll likely see it coming a mile off.)”

Nicolás Delgadillo, Discussing Film

“Still, for every stumble, the film manages to take two more steps forward. Scenes have a much better rhythm than before, and everything feels more significant and cinematic thanks to strong direction from Bousman and camera work from cinematographer Jordan Oram.”

Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

“Spiral brings style and substance, with a few chuckles to balance the gore. For this standalone entry, Bousman subverts familiarity and reinvigorates the franchise by substantially expanding and evolving the Saw universe. Perhaps it’s Rock that surprises the most, who enters the Saw franchise and leads it with ease.”

Nick Allen, The Playlist

“There turns out to be no actual book in “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” but it does define what makes an intricately bad movie, with flaws that can sometimes be earnest, unintentionally hilarious, or disappointing. Watching “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” I was thinking about the franchise’s fans, whose taste for soap-copera and over-the-top torture has been gravely underestimated. They’ll want to throw the book at Rock and Bousman.”

Matt Goldberg, Collider

“I leave it to the die-hard fans to argue over where Spiral ranks in the pantheon of Saw movies, but for a guy who was one-and-done with this franchise, I didn’t mind this return to the game.”

Several of the reviews reference Spiral’s attempts at dealing with more substantive social themes than past Saw films. Per the critics, the film makes an attempt at addressing anti-Black police bias and brutality, telling that story primarily through its two Black police officer main characters played by Rock and Jackson. However, the general consensus seems to be that the movie falls short of addressing those issues in any truly impactful way.

Overall, the Spiral reviews are pretty thoroughly mixed. One thing seems certain at the very least – it’s a much better and more interesting installment than 2017’s Jigsaw, and it marks some notable movement towards actual revitalization of the franchise. Whether you’re a Saw fan, a campy horror fan, or just someone interested in Chris Rock’s next step down the dramatic acting path, it sounds like Spiral: From the Book of Saw may be worth checking out.

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