Jul 162021

Although I do appreciate trying to take the franchise is a new direction, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a complete misfire with really poor acting, bad and predictable writing, pedestrian direction and nonsensical editing.



Mortal Kombat

Genre(s): Horror, Crime, Thriller
Lionsgate | R – 93 min. – $30.99 | July 20, 2021

Date Published: 07/16/2021 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer(s): Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger (written by)
Cast: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Daniel Petronijevic

Features: Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailers
Slip Cover: Yes
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: 4K, Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 2

Audio (4K/BD): English (Dolby Atmos), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video (4K): 2160p/Widescreen 2.38
Video (BD): 1080p/Widescreen 2.38
Dynamic Range: HDR10
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Codecs: HEVC / H.265 (4K), MPEG-4 AVC (BD)
Region(s): A, B, C

Lionsgate provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

Note: The screen captures were taken from the included Blu-ray disc.

THE MOVIE — 1¾/5

Plot Synopsis: Working in the shadow of his father (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (CHRIS ROCK) and his rookie partner Detective William Schenk (MAX MINGHELLA) take charge of an investigation into grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

Review: 2004’s Saw was an amazing film, one that attracted horror, thriller and crime fans alike and for me, I found it to be a compelling and all around entertaining suspense-thriller with some grisly horror thrown in. The subsequent sequels what really ushered in the torture-porn craze that sprouted the likes of Hostel and The Collector amongst others, albeit Saw was hardly the start of the trend, but spurred it on in a time when, at least from my memory, horror was on a downslide.

Eight movies later that had concluded with Jigsaw in 2017, a movie I saw but really cannot remember one thing about it. As for the previous entries, all coming out in succession year over year, the quality of each diminished and less focus on any story and instead trying to find new and grisly ways to find ways to kill a human with some odd twist of the perpetrator’s reasoning. Of course, it would be hard to find a twist as surprising as it was for the first film.

Now comes Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a new chapter that takes the legacy and takes it in a different direction, which I am perfectly fine with given they had driven the Jigsaw storyline into the ground. And when I initially read that of all people Chris Rock was spearheading this, my eyebrow raised but kept an open mind. And adding Samuel L. Jackson to the cast was… not all that impressive since, as entertaining of an actor he is, he does tend to take just about anything thrown his way. The cast also includes Marisol Nichols and Max Minghella, two fine actors but, well, I’ll get to the acting later.

In any case, what we got with Spiral was a gigantic mess. The film sees the return of Darren Bousman (Saw II, III and IV) and I suppose he’s the best part, at least giving some semblance of a mood or grit. However, and this was an issue with the others in the Saw franchise, the editing was chaotic, here it felt amateurish. There’s nothing in the technical aspects that could be pointed to that I could say was any good.

The biggest issue was with the acting. I actually was absolutely stunned in how awful… EVERYONE was, top lined by Chris Rock, who served as an executive producer, himself. Not that anyone else could’ve done any better but he was woefully miscast and mostly screamed the terrible dialogue and throughout the movie would throw in little comedy rants that felt out of place and added nothing to the character. Rock isn’t the only one:

There’s a trope scene where we get the police captain, played by Marisol Nichols, yells at Rock’s Banks character for being a reckless and that he’s getting a rookie partner, he was a line away from saying “I work alone!” Mind you, this was not supposed to be a satire of the buddy cop movie (notable Rock pitched this as a cross between 48 HRS and Seven, if only). The acting between Rock and Nichols was so over-the-top, it was difficult to take anything seriously from there on out.

Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson has a small part and gets an interesting trap I suppose, but clearly the filmmakers got him for a couple of days, i.e. the Bruce Willis treatment. It’s your typical Jackson performance and I guess compared with the others, probably is the better one of the bunch… by default at any rate.

The other problem: while there was plenty of suspension of disbelief in some of the Saw sequels, both in terms of how the torture/kill devices were designed and built, but the unmasking of the ultimate villains beyond John Kramer as well. Here, the identity of the killer is completely predictable, where you’ll know within the first 15-20 minutes, so you’re left with a half-baked story with poorly conceived characters and terrible performances. It’s not that the others in the franchise had spectacular acting or anything, but it wasn’t this bad.

I have no idea where this storyline is going to go, or where it can go, from here or how Lionsgate defines success since this was released prior to theaters completely re-opening, but I can only hope somehow, someway they right the course, or just let it die completely (I’ll predict they’ll go for the TV series route, I’m sure it could find a home on Shudder).

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is just simply a bad movie. There are parts to unintentionally laugh at like the bad acting from what would be assumed a talented cast, however Chris Rock in particular was especially felt out of place; honestly someone like Chiwetel Ejiofor might’ve brought something better to the table, though he would be too good for this script…



This release comes with a glossy slip cover and inside a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.

Audio Commentaries:

  • Director Darren Lynn Bousman, Co-Screenwriter Josh Stolberg and Composer Charlie Clouser
  • Producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg

Sadly unusual nowadays for new movies to get not only one commentary, but two, here we get two tracks covering different aspects of the production with the first going into a bit more detail. While I didn’t really enjoy the movie, still found these to be fairly interesting.

The Consequences of Your Actions: Creating Spiral (59:05) — 5-part making-of has behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with members of the cast and crew, including Chris Rock, director Darren Lynn Bousman and others discussing the newest incarnation of the franchise.

Drawing Inspiration: Illustrated Trap Breakdowns (8:45) looks at how the torture devices were conceived with commentary by Bousman.

Decoding the Marketing Spiral (6:12) looks at the designs of the poster artwork.

Last up is the Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1:43) as well as the regular Theatrical Trailer (2:26).


4K VIDEO – 4½/5, BLU-RAY VIDEO – 4½/5

Lionsgate goes into a Spiral dive showing the movie in the original 2.38 widescreen aspect ratio and presented with a 2160p and 1080p high-definition transfers on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs respectively. For the most part both of these do look fine, although not extraordinarily incredible; however detail is mostly sharp on both with the 4K getting a slight boost with the film grain/noise being slightly more noticeable. This is a dark and gritty crime-horror-drama so you’re not going to get amazing colors, so things in that realm are vastly tamped down.

AUDIO – 4¾/5

Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs come with Dolby Atmos tracks. One would imagine a horror movie with plenty of screams and Charlie Clouser’s score would take full advantage of an Atmos track… and it certainly does. Unfortunately the trite and terrible dialogue comes across with good clarity and the bass with jump scares makes use of the LFE channel quite effectively. There is some solid depth for ambient noises or the great Jigsaw theme that is sprinkled in, especially during the finale.


Although I do appreciate trying to take the franchise is a new direction, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a complete misfire with really poor acting, bad and predictable writing, pedestrian direction and nonsensical editing. It’s not the worse film I’ve seen but it’s at the bottom in the Saw series.



Note: The next page with screen captures may have spoilers.

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