We start this year's October Horror Movie Challenge with a conclusion to the Saw Week exercise I ran back in June: Spiral - From The Book of Saw, released on Blu-Ray in the UK in August.
Taking a leaf from the original Saw movie, Spiral is primarily a gruesome police procedural, but here we have a Jigsaw "copycat" killer taking out corrupt members of a city police force.
While not a target for any of his traps per se, the killer seems to have a special interest in the department's one good cop, a hilariously over-the-top, almost parody of the lone wolf stereotype, Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock).
There are definitely moments when the dialogue and actions of characters - and not just Rock's Zeke - are so wild and melodramatic - while hammering home perceived clichés of the Mel Gibson/Lethal Weapon-style of renegade cop who always gets the job done, no matter the cost - that Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger's script plays like a send-up of the genre.
After one "off-the-books" solo mission too many, Zeke's boss, Captain Angie Garza (Riverdale's Marisol Nichols) insists he partner up with rookie detective William Schenk (The Handmaid's Tale's Max Minghella) when a call comes in to investigate the death of an apparent homeless person in the subway.
If only Zeke had been days away from retirement, Spiral would have ticked every cliché on the genre bingo card. In fact, I'm slightly disappointed that neither he nor his dad said: "I'm getting too old for this shit!"
Zeke's father - the former police chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L Jackson) - mysteriously disappears before he is able to discuss the case with his son, causing the already stressed Zeke additional concern.
We are treated to some glorious flashbacks of Jackson sporting a wonky fake moustache that just made me giggle childishly.
However, the exaggerated police drama is balanced against the bloody "tests" that the killer puts their victims in.
While they seemingly abide by John Kramer's rules that the person must have a chance of escape, the chances appear to be very thin... and failure results in a bloody mess for the police to pick through.
Honestly, you don't have to be a detective to figure out the identity of the killer if you pay attention to the way some scenes are shot and how one particular murder is handled, but the confirmation of their true name in the final act is when the film truly comes into its own.
Actually, the concluding scenes of Spiral save the film, retroactively explaining some moments from earlier in the narrative (as Saw movies are won to do), but, as with the later films in the original Saw franchise, this killer simply isn't as original or layered as John Kramer (the original Jigsaw).
I think I was expecting a very modern reimagining of the Saw franchise, but - despite the big names and presumably bigger budget - Spiral ultimately plays out like just another by-the-book entry in the franchise.
But I guess the clue was in the title.
FILMS WATCHED: 1
NEW TO ME: 1