Parents' Guide to

Spiral

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Saw spin-off is a decent police story with TONS of gore.

Movie R 2021 93 minutes
Spiral Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 17+

This Movie Spirals Out of Control

I actually had high hopes for this (call me naive), maybe because of the star power of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, neither of whom typically dabbles in the horror genre. I was hopeful that it would at least be entertaining, if not scary. Boy, was I wrong. It was not only NOT entertaining, but it borderline felt torturous to watch. Grossly unnecessary gore, predictable violence, and a convoluted story line that has sadly departed so far from the unique twist and originality of the first film. Instead of suspense and scares the movie is entirely made up of shock value. The goal is clearly to gross viewers out in hopes that disgust might be confused for actual enjoyment. I'm going to recommend people skip this one, unless you want to feel like you're the one stuck in a torture device for 1.5 hours. And definitely not for kids!
age 17+

Decent saw film

Spiral: From the Book of Saw, or Spiral: Saw, or simply Spiral is an entertaining thrill ride that while not as good as the previous Saw films holds up well for what you could say is a second soft reboot of the franchise after Jigsaw back in 2017. Plot: After the opening scene that involves the death of a detective from the Metropolitan Police Force, Detective Ezekiel Banks is on a manhunt when spirals seem to pop up all over the city. What seems to be an eerie connection to his father and knowing some of the cops' dark pasts, they figure out that this killer is targeting dirty cops and seems to have an eerily similar connection to the Jigsaw killer when those puzzle pieces seem to line up with the signature spirals showing up around the city and leads everyone to this conclusion: a Jigsaw copycat is after the department. Pros: the acting is surprisingly good. I actually bought into Chris Rock's role as this chief recruiting Max Minghella as the new rookie cop in the city William Schneck. He had some genuinely great moments of seriousness and great moments of humor. Samuel L. "motherfucking" Jackson was also great in the movie for the limited screentime he has. As for the gore, it's a great balance, considering this movie focuses less on traps and more of a character building piece. That doesn't mean that it holds back though and definitely earns an R rating. The pacing was pretty good for the most part (until the end); nothing felt like it dragged too much, and nothing felt too fast until the 3rd half. Which then leads me to some of the negatives. Cons: The writing could've been better within the last half of the film. The climax felt way too quick with the killer reveal for some reason. Not to mention the twist being slightly predictable. I also feel like the film could've benefitted greatly if I were emotionally invested in some of the characters when they got killed off. But since this movie only has a 90 runtime, there ain't a lot to focus on character wise. Not to mention it was a bit hard to believe how some of the cops got caught so easily. But that's all I have for negatives. If you wanna a good Saw film, you'll get it here. If you wanna a good cop thriller, you'll get it here. So in the end, that was a 90 minutes well spent.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5 ):
Kids say (28 ):

The expected gimmicky torture/gore scenes in this Saw spin-off seem a little out of place in what's otherwise a decently moody, intense police story. The ninth movie in a series that left off in 2017 with Jigsaw, Spiral is, like the original 2004 Saw, a gore/horror film on the surface and a murder mystery at heart. It's more than just another sequel that copies the formula. It actually evokes David Fincher's Seven or Zodiac more than it does any of the previous Saw movies, with its hardened, veteran detective, fresh-faced rookie, and brutal crimes.

The movie creates a potent big-city vibe, dense and heightened, but not without moments of familiarity and comfort. In his role, Rock offers an impressive, modulated performance, finding ways to slip his persona into the character with a few funny jabs here and there. But he remains rooted in Zeke's real pain and moral dilemma. It's too bad that director Darren Lynn Bousman -- who also helmed Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV -- misses a chance to connect Black characters with police corruption in a meaningful way, and the movie's torture sequences almost seem like asides; they could be cut down (or out altogether) and the story wouldn't suffer. They also create a flaw that provides an early clue to the final reveal. But thanks to Rock and the movie's atmosphere, Spiral actually works in a roundabout way.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: May 14, 2021
  • On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2021
  • Cast: Chris Rock , Samuel L. Jackson , Marisol Nichols , Max Minghella
  • Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
  • Inclusion Information: Black actors, Female actors, Latino actors, Asian actors
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 93 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, pervasive language, some sexual references and brief drug use
  • Last updated: January 2, 2023

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate