BAXTER — It’s the “Saw” sequel that no one saw coming.
“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is the ninth installment of the torture horror movie franchise that stalled in 2017 with “Jigsaw,” a titular sequel about the serial killer who was introduced in 2004.
Chris Rock stars as homicide Detective Ezekiel Banks while prolific actor Samuel L. Jackson plays retired police Chief Marcus Banks, “Zeke’s” estranged father.
Zeke is paired with a rookie played by Max Minghella, son of the Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella. Zeke begrudgingly takes Detective William Schenk under his wing.
Zeke prefers to work alone because early in his career he turned in a corrupt cop and, since crossing “the blue line,” he’s been deemed a rat by his coworkers at the police precinct.
But someone is now killing his fellow detectives in a sadistic game reminiscent of Jigsaw, a terminally ill serial killer who, for example, ensnared those he deemed unappreciative of life.
The inventive madman would devise a trap one could hypothetically free themselves from but would exact a price on those caught in his ritualistic games as the cost to go on living.
“Spiral” shares much of its DNA with “Seven,” a 1995 American neo-noir psychological crime thriller directed by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.
Both Fincher and “Spiral” director Darren Lynn Bousman imbue their respective motion pictures with an inescapable feeling of dread and nausea not to mention ratcheting tension and unease.
“Seven” and “Spiral” also feature a pair of mismatched homicide detectives — a world-weary veteran and an idealistic newbie to the force who find a way to work together to catch a killer.
Jigsaw used a spiral motif as his calling card and was so called because he would often remove a piece of flesh from his intended victims like a puzzle missing a piece that would make it whole.
But the serial killer has long since been presumed dead, so Zeke and Schenk hypothesize this latest line of seemingly innocent victims is the nasty work of a Jigsaw copycat killer with a grisly grudge against the police, targeting them one by one while taunting Zeke to be caught.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the original creators of the “Saw” series, serve as executive producers alongside Rock, better known for his rapid-fire comic delivery rather than his dramatic chops. But he was last seen on the small screen in the Fox dramatic anthology series “Fargo.”
“Spiral” earns its R rating right out the gate with a homicide detective’s tongue caught in a trap in which he could free himself and avoid the oncoming train, if only he would tear his tongue out.
The violence and bloodshed only escalate from that opening scene and the mystery only deepens as to who is behind the seemingly unwarranted attacks against the boys in blue.
The visceral thrills of torture does not personally appeal to me but rather the mystery surrounding the perpetrator of such heinous crimes speak to the sleuth in me.
“Spiral” is definitely not for everyone, but those with a strong stomach and a macabre sense of righteousness would find much to love about the film at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter.
“Spiral” holds a 75% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website, and fared better with moviegoers than movie critics.
“‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ suggests an interesting new direction for the Saw franchise, even if the gory sum is rather less than its parts,” according to movie critics’ consensus.
For some moviegoers, particularly horror fans, that means “Spiral” is a bloody good time at the theater.