From 2004-2017, horror lovers were gifted with eight Saw franchise movies, chock full of both high and low points. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny the success and entertainment value of Saw and its many sequels. Fast-forward to 2020, and the exciting announcement that there will be yet another sequel from the book of Saw entitled Spiral. With the pandemic delaying the movie release from October 2020 to May 2021, the film quickly became one of the most anticipated horror movies of 2021. After increasing suspense over those 7 months, and with the picture finally being released in a few days, what better time to discuss anything and everything Saw?
To begin, let’s highlight what we know about Spiral thus far, with assistance from the trailer. Chris Rock portrays Detective Zeke Banks, who begins encountering disturbing packages, crimes and sound bites that are very reminiscent of the Jigsaw killer, John Kramer, despite Kramer having been dead for years at this point. With help from his team, including Max Minghella as William Schenk, and Samuel L. Jackson playing his father Marcus, Det. Banks has to attempt to uncover the Jigsaw copycat and decipher how to stop them before they take more lives, including his own.
Now that we know the basic plot, let’s dive into trailer Easter eggs, because there are countless. First things first: the sound bite delivered by the murderer himself. Fans of Saw remember these as little cassette tapes that read, “Play Me” in red paint. The trailer for Spiral takes a very 2021 turn on that idea and instead shows a USB drive that bears the same note in the same red writing. Furthermore, the voice that is heard when the USB is plugged in is very reminiscent of Jigsaw’s delivery, even utilizing a similar distorted sound. However, it is clear that this is not our John Kramer, because besides being dead for years, the voice sounds very different. It is safe to assume from this among other hints that the entire film will contain blood and gore that builds up to one final conclusion: who is the Jigsaw copycat?
Next up is the reverse bear trap. Possibly the most infamous trap in the entire series (and one of the only traps with a heavy backstory/history), the reverse bear trap makes yet another appearance in the trailer. As if the trap cannot get any worse, the unfortunate soul that is wearing it is also faced with an oncoming train threatening to run them down. I don’t know about you guys, but I would choose death by train over my face being ripped open any day, but I digress. It is clear that director Darren Lynn Bousman (who Joey interviewed here), who directed Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV felt that it wouldn’t be a proper addition to the series without it, and it’s hard to argue with that sentiment.
One of the more disturbing franchise aspects also rears its ugly head: the pig. The disgusting, twisted masked villain that smothers and grabs victims is seen once again. In past movies, the pig mask has always been someone in cahoots with Jigsaw for various reasons, which renders the question: how did our Jigsaw copycat find these henchmen and what are their reasons for helping them? Also, how did they know exactly how Jigsaw used to capture people including the disguise his sidekicks wore during the kidnapping? Was it common knowledge to true crime fans in our Saw universe, or is our copycat someone who first hand experienced Jigsaw’s depraved traps? One many even wonder if our new Jigsaw has similar reasons as John Kramer did for choosing their victims, or if they have a more random approach. The pig opens an entire can of worms and questions, and peaks our interest even further for Spiral.
Who could forget our favorite little clowny guy, Billy the Puppet? His iconic look has been the face of the Saw franchise for years, and the spirals on his cheeks are the idea behind Spiral, naturally. While he’s not explicitly seen in the trailer, Bousman made sure to include a pig police officer Billy the Puppet look alike. This Easter Egg gives way to all of the same questions that the pig mask does: was Billy common knowledge to all who knew of Jigsaw or did our copycat become familiar with him while battling a trap from John Kramer? I know I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a creepy shot of Billy on his tricycle come May 14th, along with answers to these questions.
Perhaps one of the most exciting Easter Eggs in the trailer comes from a black and white photo of John Kramer himself. Fans of the series may find themselves letting out a little surprised gasp, or even a “Oh my God!” (such as myself) when Tobin Bell’s headshot quickly flashes. It makes sense that at the very least a picture of Kramer would have to be shown, given the fact that they are discussing his past crimes, but this also makes one wonder if the new addition to the franchise will coin similar John Kramer flashbacks with different content, as the multiple sequels did in the past. Is the trailer teasing new work from Tobin Bell as Jigsaw? Or are they just using his photos as backstory for those who may see Spiral without having seen all of the past sequels? It’s hard to tell, but I know that I am desperately hoping for at least some extra work from Tobin Bell, given that he is the best actor and character in the entire franchise.
Just when you think there cannot possibly be more Easter Eggs jammed into one trailer, our largest one appears: a shot of Detective Banks shackled in a hepatitis filled bathroom, raising a grimy saw up to his eye line. Loyal Saw fans will get a chill down their spine at this reveal, as I know I did. Could it be possible that the area in which the new Jigsaw crimes occur is in the same location from the first film, which continually popped up in the sequels? From what we know from previous movies, most of our past victims that have been held in that building are since deceased, except for one: Lawrence Gordon. Is our good friend Lawrence from Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V and Saw 3D behind the new string of murders? Is Lawrence trying to teach the same gruesome lessons that John Kramer taught him when he forced him to cut his own leg off? Lawrence has done that before, with Detective Mark Hoffman, a past Jigsaw apprentice, who Lawrence kidnapped with other survivors while wearing the infamous pig mask. Lawrence then shackled Hoffman in the same bathroom and left him to rot by himself in Saw 3D. It’s true that we’re still unsure if Hoffman is alive or not, and as we’ve seen before, he is wildly lucky when it comes to staying alive. So, yes, he is another possibility as to who is trying to inflict the same grim punishment onto others, but we know for sure that Lawrence is alive which makes him more likely (not to mention he is way more likable).
That’s all for Easter Eggs that I picked up on while painstakingly watching the trailer. However, there is an original song for Spiral by 21 Savage, and if you watch the music video, you find more nods at the series and possible Easter Eggs. In one shot, an actress is shown looking into what appears to be a paint can and having something explode onto her face. It’s hard to not connect this shot back to Saw IV—another Bousman film—when Detective Lindsey Perez suffers an explosion when she leans forward towards a Billy the Puppet that explodes, sending shards into her face. Another element that the music video applies that may give viewers déjà vu are the numerous hanging pigs in what seems to be the Gideon Meatpacking Plant, which was built by John Kramer himself. Who could forget the big reveal that many traps were held in that building, or the scene from Saw III where a judge was strapped down in a vat of blended, rotten pig carcasses? Then finally, the music video shows our old friend Billy the Puppet! Which gives us hope that maybe he will reappear in Spiral alongside his police officer pig lookalike.
So what can we hope for from Spiral? The last sequel that did not bare the Saw name, Jigsaw, was beyond disappointing for multiple reasons. The largest reason being that it completely ignored any of the past storylines or characters that the other seven movies had laid out meticulously. Where is Mark Hoffman? Or previous victim turned vigilante Lawrence Gordon? An even deeper question: where is John Kramer’s body? In Jigsaw, his grave was exhumed only to find a victim from earlier in the movie in his coffin instead of John. Jigsaw chose to ignore every single one of these questions among others, and offered a film that had superior visual quality yet it was inferior in every other department.
My dream scenario in regards to Spiral? While I’m thrilled to be introduced to new characters, if they could pull off bringing back old characters that we have grown to love in the past films and give us some sense of resolution, that would be incredible. Furthermore, one of the most stellar aspects of the Saw movies were the intricately woven, intimate, and heart wrenching storylines and character development. With each movie, viewers sympathized and connected with Tobin Bell’s serial killer character John Kramer. Additionally, audiences learned each victim’s storyline, and were either left sympathizing with them or loathing them by the end of each film. These facts alone are enough to leave anyone who watches these films wanting more, while wavering between understanding and despising Kramer, his henchmen, and his victims. The trailer sets the stage for these aspects to shine, with opportunity to lay out a twisted tale involving the father-son relationship between Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters. If they could achieve all of this as well as matching the visual quality of Jigsaw without being similar to that sequel in any other way, I would be a very happy moviegoer.
For more Saw related fun, be sure to listen to Awards Radar’s podcast episode #4 (here) where Myles (who also wrote about Saw here), Joey, and I analyze the best and worst moments of each movie, the many traps involved, as well as our definitive rankings of each film in the franchise. Be sure to see Spiral, which hits movie theaters May 14th, 2021, as well as comment your thoughts and rankings in regards to the Saw collection.