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The newest addition to the Saw franchise, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, is a tongue-ripping, spine-severing good time. The film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who has now directed four of the nine films, and the original creators of the series, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, also were executive producers on the film alongside Chris Rock.

The Plot

Chris Rock stars in the film as Zeke Banks, a Metro cop with baggage. Zeke’s father Marcus was police chief during the time that Zeke turned in his own partner as a dirty cop. As a result of this, the police force has a nasty attitude towards Zeke, leaving dead rats on his desk and not backing him up when he needs it. The new police chief, Angie Garza, decides Zeke needs a partner to keep him straight. She assigns Zeke to train William Schenk, a rookie raring to go.

When Zeke and William are assigned a new case, everyone thinks it is just cut and dry – a homeless man got ran over in the subway. Zeke and William investigate, and they discover the murder has shocking similarities to the Jigsaw murders, even though John Kramer has been dead ten years.

When the victim is revealed to be a cop from their station, the stakes are raised. The killer begins targeting the Metro police and Zeke and William race to beat the copycat killer.

The Verdict

The writers, directors, and producers of this film nailed what we come to expect from a Saw film. The traps are classic Saw: smart, gory, with a reason the victim is being punished as such. While the movie does extensively use standard good cop/bad cop stereotypes (the good cop who is ostracized for turning in a bad cop, the greasy no-good cop, the hardened police chief), its uniqueness radiates.

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This film does many of the things that Jordan Peele’s Get Out did for the horror genre. Production created a horror film that is diverse in skin color and gender. Much of the musical score is rap, and the producers did not shy away from creating a film that shows Blackness and Black culture in its forefront. The message of the copycat killer in the film is clear as well: police brutality and misuse of power must be controlled. This film is timely, diverse, and classic Saw. There is nothing to lament in this newest installment. The perspective is fresh, and while police tropes are used, it is necessary to the execution of the overall message.

While I can see critics’ point that the film’s plot is elementary, I see this simple cat-and-mouse plot as an attempt to return to the origins of the Saw franchise. Yes, it is simple. There is a killer; we must find him before he plucks off every cop in the precinct. If you are a die-hard Saw fan, you will know who the killer is immediately halfway through the film. I only found this made the film endearing, as if it was praising long-term fans for their devotion by giving them a little sneak peek of answers before it is revealed to all.

Final Thoughts

As for the ending that critics take issue with, I found it to be powerfully messaged and biblical in nature. Without giving too much away, watch it again and consider the action of crucifixion and the inability of controlling the action that was executed.

This film draws on classic Saw morals and messages while updating it to a more diverse, complicated world. Many have said they step into the film world to escape the truths of today and found the messages in Spiral to be overwhelming and too political. The personal is political, and Chris Rock brought an important issue to the big screen in a way that was entertaining but will also leave an impression in the minds of its viewers. Seemingly simple on the surface, Spiral: From the Book of Saw has much more to offer down below.

Bonus: Samuel L. Jackson stars in the film, and if you are a Pulp Fiction fan, there’s a cute Easter Egg for you! Check out the name of the safe company on the door Chris Rock walks past – Vincent & Jules safe company! 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you do want to watch this and make your own decision, it is available from the comfort of your own home. Just click on through and if you buy, we do get some $$.

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Sarah Moon is a stone-cold sorceress from Tennessee whose interests include serial killers, horror fiction, and the newest dystopian blockbuster. Sarah holds an M.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing. She works as an English professor as well as a cemeterian. Sarah is most likely to cover horror in print including prose, poetry, and graphic forms. You can find her on Instagram @crystalsnovelnook.

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The Boys, The Insider

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We’ve reached the second to last episode of The Boys, season four. And, as is appropriate for the penultimate episode of any show, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Christmas is coming, and the whole world is getting ready. Ryan, despite being very clear that he didn’t want to appear on any TV shows or movies, has been strong-armed into participating in a Vought puppet Christmas special. He draws the line, though, when asked to sing about turning one’s parents in if they start talking about woke things.

Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

Meanwhile, The Boys are trying to keep each other together. Butcher decides to take Sameer to the rest of the team. He also gets Frenchie out of prison, hoping they can make the Sup virus necessary to finally take down Homelander. Instead, this decision means disaster for one member of the team.

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What worked

I first want to talk about Ryan’s speech near the end of the episode. Because it was exactly the moral of this whole story.

Ryan’s dad is a monster. His stepdad is also kind of a monster. But Ryan is a good kid. He cares about people, about family. And while he loves Homelander and Butcher, he doesn’t want to be like them.

Even better, this speech sounded like something a kid would say. Ryan didn’t open his mouth and start sounding like a college student all of a sudden. He sounds like a kid who misses his mom and wants to live up to the good standards she set for him. And I think that’s terrific.

Speaking of Homelander, he shot himself in the foot in this episode. I said earlier in the season that his hubris was going to be his downfall, and I was right. Without Sage, he just has the same weaknesses he’s always had. He’s going to fail because he just isn’t clever enough or patient enough to succeed.

Without Sage, I think a win is in the bag for The Boys. This isn’t to say that Homelander by himself isn’t dangerous. It’s just that he’s more like a wildfire than a controlled burn. He’s going to cause a lot of damage, but not get anything he wants out of it.

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More’s the pity for him and everyone else who has to share his world.

Finally, I am thrilled with A-Train’s redemption story. I love that he wants to be a good person not to save himself, but to be a good person. His honest, pure and warm reaction to that little kid smiling at him in the last episode was heartwarming. It changed him in a moment, bringing to light a goodness that he’s been keeping under wraps for a long time.

Jessie T. Usher in The Boys.

This, along with Ryan’s courageous speech, proves once again what The Boys does so well. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yes, there’s blood and balls and batshit events. Yes, someone occasionally gets ripped in half. But there is a true human goodness in the story. One that we catch glimpses of. There are good people among the monsters. There is hope for redemption.

What didn’t work

Of course, so few things in this life are perfect, and this episode was no exception. For instance, I was irritated by the insinuation that Butcher cheated on his wife.

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That just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve seen flashbacks of Billy and Becca. They were happy. He was happy. He was head over heels for her. And I don’t think it’s realistic or necessary for the character to throw in that he cheated. It does nothing to add to the story, it’s just a weird and offputting moment.

Doesn’t Butcher have enough to hate about himself? Can’t we just give him that at least he was a good husband?

Finally, I kind of hate that we ended up with Annie being caught. It’s just cliche, which is something I don’t normally say about this show. It feels lazy unless they do something very clever with it in the last episode. Which, I suppose, they might.

Next up is the season finale. And with this season being as insane as it has been, I’m expecting nothing short of bloody fireworks. And I mean literal fireworks of blood. At this point, would it surprise anyone?

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Boys, Dirty Business

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Episode six of The Boys was one of the most surprising episodes of the series so far. And that is certainly saying something. Because this season has so far been bonkers.

The story

Our episode today revolves around a party at Tek Knight’s lovely mansion. Yes, it does look just like Wayne Manor.

The Boys know that Tek Knight is working with Homelander on something, but they don’t know the details. So they decide to send Hughie in to bug the mansion.

Because that’s worked so well the other two times he’s tried to hide a bug!

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It should surprise no one that this time goes no better. Hughie finds himself in Tek Knight’s basement. And by that I mean his BDSM dungeon.

Meanwhile, the party upstairs is no less disturbing. Homelander and Sage are trying to convince some well-off political donors to support a cue after the election. When pressed for details on his plan, Homelander freezes. He looks to Sage for help, but she wasn’t recently shot in the head and still in the junk food stage of her healing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Neuman jumps in and saves the day.

Claudia Doumit in The Boys.

What works

If I’m going to say one thing about this episode, it didn’t hold back at all. I didn’t expect them to show a character masturbating, sitting their bare behind on a cake, or spraying breastmilk into someone’s face. But every time I thought they’d cut the scene and let something be left to our imagination, they did not do that.

Derek Wilson in The Boys.

This is a dangerous move. Whenever you show the monster, you run the risk of them not being scary enough, or gross enough. As Stephen King says in Danse Macabre, to leave this sort of thing to the imagination if the reader makes things so much worse. So when they finally experience the monster, they might say that this isn’t so bad. It could have been so much worse.

But in this case, they managed to avoid that by making the scenes, especially the ones in Tek Knight’s dungeon, so much worse than I imagined it would be.

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What doesn’t work

While this was a deeply disturbing episode in many ways, there was one really innocent and sweet moment.

And yes, I did have a problem with it.

Confronted by Firecracker, Annie decides to apologize for spreading rumors about her when they were kids. She tells her that she is genuinely sorry.

And I believe her. I don’t think Firecracker did, but I did.

So why is this an issue? Because I’m starting to think that Annie is maybe too nice. She is too good.

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I know that Annie is our good guy. But every one of the other good guys has flaws. Hughie let his pride get in the way and took Temp V. MM hid himself from his daughter instead of teaching her to work through her emotions. Kimiko is far too closed off and has a hard time trusting others. Frenchie numbs himself with drugs. And well, what hasn’t Butcher done?

It is unrealistic that Annie is just so kind and so flawless. We all have shadows in our personalities. We all have weaknesses, we all mess up. We all do things we wish we could take back. The fact that Annie doesn’t seem to have anything like that is not just unrealistic. It’s infantilizing.

Give her some deep dark secrets. Give her something real to regret.

This was a shocking episode, even for someone fairly jaded like me. I wasn’t expecting the sort of weird sexual depravity, though I guess maybe I should have seen it coming. It was dark, upsetting, tense, and funny as hell. And with just two episodes left in the season, I can imagine the stakes are only going to get higher.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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Movies n TV

House of he Dragon: S2E4 – The Return of Trogdor!

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Instead of recapping this episode, I will link you to Strongbad, so you can see something with a dragon that doesn’t suck.

See you for Episode 5!

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