If you’ve seen Darren Lynn Bousman’s new Saw movie, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, you might have walked away thinking the film’s surprise ending came as a reaction to some very serious real-world issues that have rightfully been getting more attention lately. But as Bousman revealed to Gizmodo in a recent interview, that’s not the case.
Spiral was originally supposed to come out in May of last year and, in the year since Bousman didn’t change anything. Unfortunately, nothing has changed in society either, which makes the film’s ending even more impactful now than it would have been last year. In the final act of the film, it’s revealed that the new villain is actually William (Max Minghella), the rookie detective and partner of Zeke (Chris Rock). He also happens to be the son of an unarmed man who was killed years earlier by a dirty cop — the same dirty cop Zeke ratted out, turning the entire police force against him. William reveals his crusade throughout the film has purposefully been directed at cops who abuse their power against the less fortunate — which, obviously, brings to mind the never-ending news stories about real-world police brutality.
The plot choice turns a cop-centric horror movie into a film with a timely social message, but that wasn’t the plan when Spiral was written. “I mean, sadly, the reality is this has been an issue long before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” director Darren Lynn Bousman told Gizmodo last week. “This has been going on for years and years and years … [But] we always want to say something with the Saw movies. Even though they’re buried in blood and violence and guts and gore, there’s always messages to them. And that started with James Wan’s original and went through mine. We always wanted to say something more. I think that’s why the Saw films have persevered while so many other franchises have not.”
Bousman says the idea to make police and police brutality the focal point of Spiral was less about making a statement about the current social climate, and more from the mythology of Saw itself. “Cops are always a big part of the Saw franchise,” he said, “The B-storyline was always police in almost every one of the films. [So] I think we decided right off the bat that it had to be an A-storyline this time around. And then we looked at what was the progression of Jigsaw’s message? If Jigsaw’s message was about reforming the individual, taking a drug addict and abuser and reforming them, holding the mirror up to them and saying, ‘You must do this atrocious thing if you’re going to appreciate your life and change for the better,’ we thought the natural progression of Jigsaw’s message was to reform an institution … It just seemed like a natural progression to place it on the detectives, which had been a storyline of Saw in the past.”
However, to make that work, Bousman said everyone involved fought for one particular twist on that story. “If we were going to tell this story about corrupt officers, if we were going to tell this thing, it was critical to us that the hero also be a cop,” he said. “You couldn’t just damn an entire institution without showing another side of it. So that became the main selling point for Zeke is that you had to have the hero be a police officer as well.”
And that’s how you get a killer like Spiral trying to get a broken but honest cop like Zeke to side with him against the corrupt institution of police. The alliance doesn’t quite work out, but it leaves both Zeke and Spiral/William among the few remaining survivors. Meaning, there’s more to come. “If you go back and watch [the first] Saw, Jigsaw was only hinted at. He was a body on the floor and a presence,” Bousman said. “It wasn’t until Saw II and III that you actually get to know who Jigsaw was and why he was. We approached Spiral with kind of the same idea that we were going to introduce characters, but knowing that if it was to continue on, we had a story for them.”
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is now in theatres.