‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ Movie Review — The ‘Cobra Kai’ of ‘Saw’ Movies

The Saw franchise was relentless even by horror movie standards, putting out seven entries in seven years. The Jigsaw sequel was a strong eighth, years later, but Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a true reinvention of the Saw franchise. Executive producer and star Chris Rock initiated the project with an incisive idea to apply Saw to greater societal problems.

Saw inspires the Spiral symbol Chris Rock and Max Minghella investigate
L-R: Max Minghella and Chris Rock | Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

How is ‘Spiral’ connected to ‘Saw’?

Zeke (Rock) is an edgy rogue cop, the kind who gets scolded by Captain Garza (Marisol Nichols). Zeke has to be a loner because no cop will trust him since he reported a corrupt cop 12 years earlier. Even his father, Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), couldn’t protect Zeke. Garza assigns him a new partner, William Schenk (Max Minghella) and their first case together seems like a Jigsaw copycat.

Spiral: Marisol Nichols and Chris Rock investigate a new case
Marisol Nichols and Chris Rock | Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

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The killer is targeting other cops with the same philosophy as Jigsaw. If someone were corrupt, they’d find themselves in a trap. They will have the chance to escape and redeem themselves as long as they mutilate themselves in some karmically appropriate way. For example, the first victim is a cop who repeatedly lied on the stand, so the killer forces him to cut out his tongue. 

Do you have to have seen all the ‘Saw’ movies?

Remarkably, Spiral: From the Book of Saw stands on its own. All the other Saw movies were so intrinsically interwoven with each other that it would be hard to call any a true standalone, even the later Jigsaw. That was part of the fun. But all you need to know for Spiral is John Kramer was the Jigsaw killer, and it seems Zeke and the police have dealt with several copycats since his death.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is predominantly a cop movie. That is consistent with the franchise. Saw movies were always about adults with real jobs who had real problems and often made bad decisions. Spiral just spends more time with the police than even the first Saw did with Danny Glover’s character. 

Spiral: From the Book of Saw's new killer stalks a victim
L-R: Daniel Petronijevic and the new killer | Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

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What is truly in keeping with Saw’s mandate is the idea of applying Jigsaw’s morality to the institution of policing. Rock had this idea in 2019. Due to the pandemic, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is coming out a year after the summer of the George Floyd protests. Jigsaw did trap cops who were on his trail in the original series, but Spiral specifically deals horror-movie justice to police corruption. 

Spiral may have the most shocking twist of all. The ultimate plot revelation is likely to cause more debate than the usual Saw twist. Spiral fans will have to litigate that post-spoilers. It was Rock’s idea, so using art to say something is on-brand, whether it’s horror, comedy, or drama. 

Is ‘Spiral’ as graphic as ‘Saw’?

Even though Spiral is more of an edgy cop movie than straight horror, you’re not going to get off the hook if you’re squeamish. Spiral is sicker and more brutal than any Saw. Granted, the sequels got more graphic as they went along, but even the original Saw showed the aftermath of many gruesome traps. 

Chris Rock leads cops through a meat locker in Spiral
Chris Rock (front) | Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

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Spiral is gory as ever. The style is a bit more steady as it’s not all set in a warehouse. In fact, the opening scene at a street fair is a much bigger setting. A oner tracking Zeke and Schenk all the way down the steps of a subway station shows this is a different aesthetic. The intense jittery cuts occur for character moments rather than gore scenes, and there’s no green tint. 

Spiral gives Saw new life in the way that Creed, Cobra Kai, and The Force Awakens did their franchises. This is definitely in the same world as the original eight but introduces new dynamics and characters. Of course, they can carry on in Spiral sequels, maybe back to one a year once production is back up and running! There will always be more Jigsaw copycats.