ST. LOUIS — Be warned: The only new thing in the latest "Saw" film franchise addition is the lack of an overly serious tone. One could say that's the best thing about a movie that didn't really need to exist but also isn't a bad way to spend 93 minutes in a dark theater.
Let's be honest. Out of all the things that film addicts and moviegoers were asking for, another Jigsaw copycat rendition wasn't at the top of the list. But then you have the inspired casting of Chris Rock (as a good yet hated detective) and Samuel L. Jackson (his retired police chief dad), and Darren Lynn Bousman's fourth crack at the "Saw" series starts to make more sense-or find some purpose for existing.
Can we skip the plot rundown and talk about Rock's Zeke "but is he a righteous man?" Banks deconstructing "Forrest Gump" in the first ten minutes of the movie, around five after the first character dies? Right then and there, the seriousness of the entire movie drops and the writers (Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger) show their hand early. If you count showing as reminding you that laughing is okay in a horror film. Throughout this film, whether it's intentional or not, you will laugh at what happens. The characters may scream in agony as their tongues are stretched, skin is peeled, and life becomes very disheveled-but a few laughs are thankfully woven in.
The acting is atrocious... possibly on purpose but I am not sure. Instead of thinking of Rock and Max Minghella (playing his young, ambitious partner) as real characters, think of them as playing outlandish versions of their already-established personas. If I am being honest, the trailer for "Spiral" had me worried that this would be as enjoyable as "Saw IV." Do you remember that one? Exactly my point. Jackson, whose role isn't as big as the poster and trailer suggests, seems to be having a good time. Their agents called and said there was a chance to do another "Saw" movie. Did you expect them to say no?
Along with a tongue-in-cheek feel and a cast aiming for Razzies, the pacing here is mercilessly quick. We are ushered from one kill to the next, and it's exciting. "Spiral" gives you the best of both worlds: "Saw" and "Final Destination." A couple franchises that lived and died on a simple twist: taking ordinary people and putting them into a do-or-die situation. Predicaments that include comeuppance for bad deeds and plot twists that any semi-movie fan can see coming from a mile away. The gore on display here is genuine and relentless. If you're going to do another one of these flicks, give us the blood.
Few asked for another rendition with the creepy doll riding around on a tiny bike, but at least Bousman's latest attempt has a (halfway at least) mind of its own and delivers some thrills. I wouldn't ask you to make time for this immediately, or pay IMAX prices, but it's worth a look if you want a "Saw" movie that looks different enough. There's still a little life left in these legs, even without Tobin Bell's diabolical mastermind at the helm.
Fun Fact: There are no post-credit scenes. Get up and leave that theater before you hear, "do you want to play a game?"