Everything changes, even in the Saw universe. It’s a good thing and entirely part of the process that comes with reinvention. Spiral: From the Book Of Saw may exist in the same realm as its predecessors, but the film is far from content playing the same old game. Something lost in the think pieces and undoubtedly unfavorable positions is the fact this film chooses the person over the principle. The gaze twists from unrestricted gore to carefully chartered bloody demises intent on character development. There is humanity in the moments of mayhem, a dedicated eye towards reactions and motives over thrill kills. While that may seem like a blow to genre fans, it’s actually a welcome development. To learn and grow with a franchise, instead of pigeon-holing it into oblivion.
Much of the film’s look is owed to cinematographer Jordan Oram. While many ignore the details, his work with director (and Saw franchise veteran) Darren Lynn Bousman to craft something on a sensory level that deserves to be appreciated. It’s a world that encourages viewers to reach into and grasp aspects of, from the smell of dead bodies to the textures that come along with unraveling hot wax against skin. Focusing on pieces of the human body (whether mutilated or not) heightens the experience. Instead of giving audiences a chance to experience gore on levels they have come to know, and to some extent desensitized to.
Chris Rock plays a man at a crossroads. In one corner, a devastating divorce that is complicating his personal life. In the other, a career in shambles for breaking the code of silence when a policeman commits a crime. It’s an unenviable place, one Rock’s character Zeke tries to wrestle with in equal parts humor and repulsion. He’s joined by an intriguing cast, which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, and Max Minghella, each one offering a new piece in the evolving game. The lack of Jackson proves to be a shame, especially considering his future with the franchise. Of course, the actor steals the show whenever he’s on screen.
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