The “Saw” franchise is on its last legs, all the storylines have been played out, multiple times, evil villains have come and gone and come back again. The body horror trailblazing series has come to an equally fiery crash and burn, a sure-fire indication that the franchise needed to stay dead. Who will be the one to save and revitalize this franchise? Well, Chris Rock of course.

After a chance meeting with the head of Lionsgate at a friend’s wedding, the ball was officially rolling. Rock pitched his idea and put some finishing touches on what would become SPIRAL. Marketed as “a fresh take” and that it took the series “to the next level”, many unbelievers, myself included, were willing to drink the Kool-Aid, how much worse could it get? The answer is complicated.

Chris Rock stars as a police detective caught in the middle of a killer’s sick game of revenge against a corrupt police force. SPIRAL starts strong, the relevant story about police corruption, a gnarly kill, and some standout cinematography – color me impressed. Unfortunately, you can skip the rest of the film.

The interesting story about corruption becomes contrived and downright corny at times. Rock does his very best with the material, I’m torn if the material was too much for him, or just too far below him to do anything with. A lot of his lines come off wooden and devoid of the emotion he was trying to convey. Again, I’m blaming the script for this.

Director Darren Lynn Bousman jumps into the director’s chair for the fourth time in the franchise and revealing yet another misstep in this series of missteps. For a film whose marketing is bragging on it being new and fresh . . . bring us new and fresh! We got writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger who have also written for the series before, the fact that this is still being touted as new and that it will revitalize the franchise is downright offensive.

The lack of relatable characters is the biggest misstep, everyone is either going to get tortured or have Rock yell at them. There is no emotional connection to ground the film so when the obligatory torturing happens it loses any emotional payoff the audience might have.

As the film progresses it becomes more and more apparent that the SAW formula is still alive and well and there is nothing new under the sun. Complete with a cardboard cutout villain with a twist you can see a mile away. For all of its promise of neon lit cinematography and a thrilling twist, there is nothing here that sets it apart from its peers. Not even Samuel L. Jackson yelling “I want to play a game” can save it.

1 out of 5

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