Spiral (also known as Spiral: From the Book of Saw) is a 2021 American horror movie that serves as the ninth installment in the Saw movie series. It is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, his fourth film of the series, and written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. The film stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Samuel L. Jackson, and follows police efforts to stop a Jigsaw copycat killer. The original creators of the series, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, serve as executive producers alongside Rock.
Talks of another Saw installment began after the release of Jigsaw in 2017, with Chris Rock wanting to branch out into the horror genre. The Spierig Brothers, who directed Jigsaw, were interested in returning for another film but eventually decided against it. The project was officially announced in May 2019, with Rock polishing a script by Stolberg and Goldfinger. The rest of the cast joined in July, with filming taking place in Toronto through August.
Originally scheduled to be released in May 2020, Spiral was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was theatrically released in the United States on May 14, 2021, by Lionsgate. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the performances as well as the franchise’s new direction but were divided on the execution of its storyline and pacing.
The queer-themed horror movie “Spiral” begins with a sympathetic provocation: a couple neck quietly, but passionately in their car at a remote, and otherwise deserted restaurant called Angel’s Drive-In. A pair of floodlight-strength headlights turn on them, and confirm for us that the two lovers are both men. Violence soon follows, but at a different time and place: married couple Malik and Aaron (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Ari Cohen) are greeted with a brick to their car’s windshield seconds after they enter a small exurban town that may or may not be haunted by pseudo-Christian cultists.
These jarring prefatory scenes are striking given the relatively timid movie that follows: Malik, being swishier than Aaron, proceeds to lose his mind with worry as his partner and step-daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) struggle to assimilate into a town that obviously isn’t comfortable with “any of you,” as one smiling, gift-bearing neighbor puts it. Unfortunately, there are some taboos that the creators of “Spiral” are either too shy or too cautious to get into, and it shows in the way that they repeatedly suggest, but only once show characters saying (or reading) the word “faggot.” This movie is progressive intentionally, but not formally, and the difference between its creators’ themes and consideration is unfortunately glaring.