Spiral: From the book of Saw is the latest addition to the plethora of gore trials by Twisted Pictures and this one does not disappoint. Starring Chris Rock and Samual MF Jackson, this Tarantinoesque romp through the macabre joins us years after the events of the previous Saw films and brings a great new energy to the franchise in Chris Rock’s performance.
Right off the bat the dialogue feels playful and realistic that mixes in perfectly to the environment the film sets itself in. Moving at times more like a buddy cop flick, Spiral holds its own by not feeling as cliché as some of its previous films at times calling such things out.
The one thing that these films stray away from is any sense of realism when it comes to the traps, which is a strategy that allows these films to continue to entertain audiences, where the gore is used merely as a magician would a gimmick; to heighten the story. By making the traps more torture device than actual trial of moral values it checks all the boxes by making us wince when its just right and not any longer.
Samuel MF Jackson plays what feels more a cameo than lead role but his charisma slots him in well to this role, constantly making us second guess what we previously thought mere seconds before.
The traps may be full of blood and gore, just like the films before, but underneath that tortured skin, lies a story within… not an amazing one, you’ll probably pick up who the “butler” is pretty quick… something you can see coming yet I do not think that is the element to focus on here. This may reinvigorate these films to now include more heavy hitting names and change the emphasis to be more character driven than ever before. Looking forward to see what gory things they come up with next time!
The first lines spoken in The Soska Sisters latest feature is something of an odd choice seeing that the film itself is a remake of David Cronenberg’s science fiction body horror feature that was released back in 1977, but then the ‘Twisted Twins’ have built a reputation on face-lifts and transformations within their features that it should come as no surprise that should revamp a cult classic. Cronenberg is clearly an inspiration in the Soska Sisters previous features where body horror, mutilation, and the butchering of the beautiful is constantly a running theme through their narrative. From their low-budget debut feature, Dead Hooker In A Truck, they have been willing to their bodies on the line for the sake of their vision and in doing so, continuously look to raise the stakes, but arguably haven’t attained this since their brilliant sophomore outing behind the director’s chair with American Mary.
So, how does this modern transformation of Rabid fair and does it amount to the twin directors’ previous outings?
I have enjoyed watching the Soska Sisters’ journey, even their paint by numbers WWE venture, See No Evil 2, and I found that Rabid had the right pulse to entertain and satiate the gruesome, and bloody fascination with the human aesthetic and its ultimate destruction. We cast ourselves deep in the fashion world, where there is an expected elegance and if you don’t measure up, then you’re cast aside and considered insignificant.
This is where we meet our lead protagonist, Rose (Laura Vandervoot) who works for a fashion designer, Gunther (Mackenzie Gray), but struggles to meet her mark. One night she is invited out by photographer Brad (Ben Hollingsworth) and believes that her luck could potentially be turning, but soon discovers that it’s a pity date, set up by her best friend, Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot). Humiliated, Rose attempts to flee on her bike but is plowed down by an unseen vehicle and rushed to hospital leaving her disfigured and more depressed. It is only when she learns of a scientific breakthrough that could potentially restore her figure that Rose seizes the opportunity to be considered normal. Once again though, trust comes into question as we are only willing to expose the mask we choose to wear with people and only every so often do we allow our true selves be seen. This is a common theme throughout the movie where we should question everyone’s motives and always be suspicious of the characters we encounter, even within the medical profession as hinted by Stephen McHattie’s doctor when he asks his assistant to lend a deformed Rose a mirror, only to contradict himself by saying that Rose should never look at a mirror.
So, Rose undergoes a significant and delicate operation that not only restores her looks but metamorphosed her whole demeanour with mesmerising effect on her persona. Whilst her life suddenly flips for the better, Rose is consumed with lust for blood and meat that sends her into a frenzy and unleashing a creature within that leaves her victims with something that closely resembles rabies, but spreads as quickly as the black plague.
From here on in the action becomes frenetic and just as uncontrollable as the disease, which is obviously a directorial choice, but I can understand some viewers who might find this approach grating.
Stuck between pursuing her dreams of having her own design on the catwalk and recognition of her style, and seeking medical aid, Rose steers closer to self-destruction and chaos.
The Soska Sisters are back in their domain of stripping the human facade and revealing the tortured soul lurking within in their latest turn in the directors’ chair. Yes, it’s a remake, but there is enough spin on the original and more of the visual style and substance that makes Jen and Sylvia a force to be reckoned with when they are at their best. As always their films are beautifully shot, and manage to infuse some raw energy within the beats, and Rabid continues to project the Soskas into a twisted limelight that feels gnarly and fresh.
Strip away all the torture devices and wash away all the blood-soaked, gore-infested mayhem that the franchise has become synonymous for and some of you maybe questioning what’s left? But with James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original film that kick-started the whole Jigsaw frenzy the audience were treated to an exercise in constrained drama, flickered with tense, psychological elements that quite rightly projected the writer and director partnership into the Hollywood limelight as a result.
Part of Saw’s brilliance comes from the low-budget constraints that were placed on the making of the movie. Once the creative duo realised that the cheapest way to shoot a movie would be to have two actors in one room, this germ of an idea developed into the final product and the birth of Jigsaw and his twisted vision of justice.
Apparently the Jigsaw character began when Whannell feared that he had a brain tumour and pondered the notion of what he would do or need to do if he were only to have a year or two to live. This was the leaping point into the dark recesses of Jigsaws’ mind.
It’s this tightly shot, well structured movie that allowed Wan to develop his technique for manipulating lights and shadow to trick and deceive the audiences’ eye. He would harness this skill further with his sophomore film Dead Silence before working on his masterpiece, The Conjuring.
It wasn’t that easy getting budget for the movie though. With no luck gaining interest from their homeland in Australia, Wan and Whannell tried to taut their project in Los Angeles, but even then had to shoot a short feature to provide a proof of concept before getting any decent interest. You have to applaud their bravado to. So intent were they in getting their vision made, they insisted on having both directing and acting duties respectively. In the end it took newly formed production outfit, Twisted Pictures to give them their desires and have been behind every Saw movie since.
So with one half of the acting team already cast in Whannell as the photographer with a complex past, the team needed a decent actor opposite him as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a Doctor with an equally dubious past. In steps Cary Elwes, normally associated with his comical roles but proved worthwhile in this serious performance, more than holding his own and providing gravitas to the scenario.
The masterstroke comes with the casting of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw aka John Kramer, who simply owns his role and has propelled himself into horror movie history with his performance as the disturbed yet brilliant mind behind the various traps and tortuous devices throughout all the Saw movies.
So with the narrative played out with Adam and Dr. Lawrence wake up in a bathroom, chained to the floor with nothing but a corpse, a revolver, and a tape recorder to guide them on a journey that will test their metal and push them to the very limits of their intellect and perception.
Saw would be released in front of a Sundance audience for its initial premiere where Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights and the rest is history.
Since then, Wan has established a firm career in the director’s chair to the point hat he has been given the chance to give DC movies some decent crowd with Aquaman, and Whannell more recently carved his own success with Upgrade.
So for those who may have been apprehensive about checking out the origins of Jigsaw, before the bloodbath began, I’d recommend going back to the original source as you maybe pleasantly surprised by this outing with a clever, psychological thriller that is an example of how to shoot a low-budget movie with a lot of smarts and a decent narrative to keep the audience hooked.
It still stands strong 15 years on and my bet is that this will still be the case in another 15 years.