- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Famed “Saw” sequel director Darren Lynn Bousman took on the enormous task of trying to continue the beloved franchise this year for an astounding ninth movie in the series offering a mystery thriller mixed with some familiar human mutilations.

Critics were not impressed, but its UHD debut allows home theater fans to decide if Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 93 minutes, $39.99) lives up to its macabre origins.

The story finds a grizzled police detective, Ezekiel Banks (Chris Rock), who must work with rookie partner Detective William Schenkto (Max Minghella) to solve a series of grisly murders of police officers reminiscent of the serial killer Jigsaw.

While continuing the investigation triggered by the grisly death of a former partner, Zeke must deal with an overbearing retired homicide detective father, Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), who happens to be his landlord, and long-standing issues with fellow officers after he turned in a dirty cop.

When the killer starts leaving boxes of body parts as clues, Zeke gets caught up in a twisted game.

As usual, the diabolical traps set by the killer leave piles of bloody human carnage (fingers being graphically ripped from hands is especially disgusting) but, unfortunately, the traps are uninspired, and the plot brings nothing new to the series except a finely matured comedian turned dramatic actor.

Yes, Mr. Rock carries the mediocre movie, thanks to his edgy humor unleashed like a sharp knife and twinned with his Serpico-type cop character overloaded with bitterness and hate for his world.

“Saw” fans will not be impressed with the killer and his absurd message voice (sounding like “Groundhog Day’s” Ned Ryerson), the lack of an appearance by the original Jigsaw, and the abrupt, jaw-dropping, unsatisfying ending.

However, the 4K transfer delivers as crisp and colorful a presentation as one can expect, considering the digital camera source material capturing up to 6K of visual information.

Of course, that’s not such a good thing for those squeamish during those bloody and excessively gory kills.

Best extras: Viewers who love the film will really appreciate the unnecessary overload of film deconstruction on the 4K disc starting with two optional commentary tracks.

First, a fiery Mr. Lynn Bousman, with a bit of a game show announcer voice, along with co-screenwriter Josh Stolberg and the musical composer of all of the “Saw” movies Charlie Clouser deliver a nonstop appreciation of the cast, crew and their efforts.

It’s the best of the two tracks, not only to get a perspective from the musical director but the trio work together, asking each other questions to trigger more memories as they delve into the film. 

Next, producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg offer a less talkative but deeper production commentary as well as a perspective of the Saw franchise. They let us know such minutiae as the subway set cost $300,000 (the most of any “Saw” movie), there was a clash with the director over a scene using a Steadicam, the length of the human tongue and using an actor that refused to curse.

Let’s now add a five-chapter, hourlong documentary on the making of the movie starting with the origins of the franchise and diving into the new production covering casting, comedy, cinematography, editing and music. Viewers get lots of comments from Mr. Rock as he tries to explain the creation of a “48 Hours” meets “Seven” story.

The layers of gush get a bit much, but it’s a far more in-depth, informative and well-constructed overview than the movie deserves.

The director also offers a nine-minute, detailed breakdown of the traps that, once again, does a fantastic job of explaining some movie magic for a not-so-good movie.

And, viewers even get a 6-minute look at the marketing of the “Saw” franchise often discussing the iconic posters.

I wish “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” had been as good as the cast and crew’s appreciation of it.

Suffice it to report, fans will want to own this package but the extras far outshine the final movie.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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