Chris Rock gets serious with the punchline in Spiral, a wildly cathartic entry to the ever-enduring Saw franchise.
After eight entries, the Saw films have punished all sorts of shitty people, from apathetic insurance officers to bona fide neo-Nazis. Throughout its 17-year legacy, however, the franchise has been meager when it comes to sticking it to the types of people that deserve it most—the police.
(Sorry, that’s corrupt police officers.)
(Sorry again, that is to say all police officers.)
That’s the joke in Rock’s horror debut as producer…if you can get in on it.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman, who made many of the previous Saw films, seems to be in on it, too. The kitsch inherent to the project and Rock’s presence alongside Samuel L. Jackson serve as stoppers preventing the film to ever getting too self-serious. A good thing, really, because Saw films aren’t exactly known for the moral quandaries they pose.
The film, running at about two hours, isn’t without bloat, much of which comes from indulgent choices and Rock out-shouting every other police officer in his proximity. There’s a non-story arc concerning Rock’s character, Zeke, having to prove to his cohorts that he isn’t some product of nepotism orchestrated by his father, Marcus (Jackson), which always ends up in a petty exchange of snide remarks.
I personally find these scenes funny, if a tad too SNL-sketchy, but I also see how it could turn some viewers off. They’re a good sampler for when these officers’ more serious corruption is cast upon the fray and an even better justification for their eventual deaths by elaborate contraptions.
The kills themselves are O.K. They’re inventive enough to seem thought-through, with each trap obviously standing in as fatal metaphors for all their victims’ sins. It gets grotesque, but I wouldn’t build a fence around it to fend off squeamish viewers.
In the whole, I take Spiral like a glorified fanfic that takes after the franchise’s mechanics in order to bring justice where justice isn’t available. If you can endure the wonky writing and cringe-y exchanges, you’re free to relish in the catharsis of seeing abusive and corrupt officials get torn into pieces.
After everything, it’s honestly the type of torture porn I can get by.
This post originally appeared on my horror newsletter, Deep Cuts. Subscribe here.