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The Telegraph

Spiral, review: more Saw, more mindless gore, and a wasted Samuel L Jackson

Dir: Darren Lynn Bousman. Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Nazneen Contractor. 18 cert, 93 min Seventeen years and seven sequels since the first Saw plunged us into a world of diabolical torture, karmic payback and daft screenwriting, the horror franchise returns to cinemas rebranded. This time it’s Spiral – “From the Book of Saw”, as the credits tell us with a weirdly Biblical ring. The plot takes the shape of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in an inner-city police department. Not for nothing does a pig’s head keep popping up – variously worn as a mask or yammering away as a stick puppet – whenever the killer has a new attraction to unveil. This is not the series’s old mastermind Jigsaw, who technically died at the end of Saw III, and only managed to continue his japes with a lot of pre-recordings and mystery underlings to help out. Instead, an unnamed copycat is at large, who has evidently studied the entire manual of Jigsaw’s cleverly disgusting murder methods, and sets about offing these cops in ways (a) tailored uniquely to the sins of each individual and (b) sufficiently different from Saw set-pieces gone by that the core audience won’t cry foul. Navigating his way through this maze of red herrings and strewn chunks of human anatomy is, of all people, Chris Rock, whose idea this spin-off was. He plays a hardened homicide detective called Zeke Banks, who finds himself at the centre of the new case, along with his retired police-veteran father (Samuel L Jackson) and a rookie called Schenk (Max Minghella). These are easily the biggest star names yet to step foot in the Saw universe, and a clear sign (along with a doubled budget) that the producers have still more longevity in their sights. To direct, they’ve hired the man responsible for Saws II, III and IV, Darren Lynn Bousman, who brings this right back into the same old dank wheelhouse, stylistically speaking.

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