Home Horror Entertainment News Director Darren Lynn Bousman’s Uncanny Evolution From Saw II, III, and IV to Spiral

Director Darren Lynn Bousman’s Uncanny Evolution From Saw II, III, and IV to Spiral

by Trey Hilburn III

Director Darren Lynn Bousman has arguably given us the most impressive Saw film to date, when he gave us Saw II. Out of the four franchise films he has directed, Saw II, III, IV and Spiral, Bousman has occupied wild strides with each outing. Each used to explore not only another chapter of the franchise but a timely, fun and sometimes a methodology that exists in both being timely and fun.

Saw II’s Arguably the finest of the films. It’s a deep, total nihilistic take on recidivism, opioid addiction and the corruption of police. A corruption I might add that we will see again in the ugly real world and his work, but we will talk about that in a moment.


Saw II explores the very real truth that much like all real evil, “Jigsaw” is a symbol, a designation that can be operated as belief system. As this one has Amanda take on the mantle and cowl of John Kramer’s iconic central puzzle piece. Amanda assists Kramer in the setting up of his piece of art and final gift to the world. Jigsaw’s house of horrors. The film could have easily been titled exactly that and got away with it because it does exist to show us in great detail the blueprint and layout of the dilapidated, booby-trapped home as a juxtaposition of John Kramer’s own mind cancer ridden and failing mind. The house and John are essentially only acting out one final act, and they are doing it in the name of Jigsaw.

I also love part II because it feels like Twisted Pictures meets Hammer Films. The house, its guests, its host, the setup. It feels very Hammer. It even feels like William Castle is at work in the shadows at times. It’s a groundwork that immediately sets it apart and does some genius things.


Amanda in the meantime is becoming “Jigsaw,” she is wearing the robes and the pig mask. She is the one with the strength to enact Kramer’s final wishes, but it also speeds her along to her next place in the sequence. She knew should end up becoming him one day, or becoming his ideas. A force that she would embody.

Amanda is no slouch in the role. She is the mole within the game. While everyone in the house is trying to find their way out. It’s Amanda who is secretly moving Kramer’s pieces around to fit his game, and not assist in their trying to escape. She lays down the instigation, or points them in the way of the traps. She almost finds its hard at times to hide the ego. Amanda is the us at several points throughout the film. Bousman walks a beautiful line here. He keeps the audience as carefully placed and invested as Amanda is in the house. It’s another game but one that exists in the film’s subtext. It’s the reason that Saw II is so damn good and the reason it stands out in the films.


While Saw III isn’t nearly as engaging and sadly isn’t as realized through out due to problems with pacing and time. Part II, still has a lot going for it in terms of the line that Bousman was working. In part III, Kramer isn’t being good to Amanda. But, Amanda is becoming something else and doesn’t want to adhere to Jigsaw anymore. Rather it be the man or the institution. It’s a problem that plays out very early on between Amanda and Kramer. While the regular traps are being made and suspense is being built the real crux of the film lies between Amanda, Kramer and the doctor they kidnapped to keep Kramer ticking, as his body is shutting down from the final stages of cancer.

I feel this was Bousman’s very real struggle with the studio made cinematic. I feel like Bousman was essentially the doctor being treated like shit to save Jigsaw. Much like the doctor in the film is forced into the situation, I feel, so was Bousman. You can see the studio much like Amanda and Kramer, sitting and poking Bousman in the ribs and setting him up to fail by giving him the task of saving Jigsaw. A move that they could never reverse, considering he is dying of cancer at the end of Saw’s first film. There was no way back from this corner. But, Bousman and many hired in the same spot have been forced to attempt to stop at doing just that.

Over a decade has passed since Bousman worked on his last Saw film. That was the fourth entry in the franchise. With all the troubles that Part IV brought the director,  I never thought that we would see Bousman return to the franchise, I really didn’t. So, I was totally shocked and ecstatic to see that once again Bousman is back with Spiral. And just from early on watching the trailers we could see that we would be getting the best of his Saw work here. We knew It would be timely, subjective and that it would have that unique feel that is unmistakably Bousman’s Saw.

We weren’t wrong in that assessment. He is back in place and instead of coming back and picking up where he left off, he is taking on the world of Saw with a totally new steps to this familiar rhythm. We also have Chris Rock acting in the film and adding his own voice to the film.

Spiral: The Book of Saw much like Saw II has a lot of things on its mind. We are dealing with corruption within the police force. We are looking at an age where the real horror comes from young black men getting shot for raising a sandwich wrapped in foil. The conversation is hard one to have… but it didn’t stop Bousman and Chris Rock from taking all that and having a true discussion with the audience about the shape of the world and the shape of corruption all within the confines of a horror film. As director and writer Mick Garris has said several times, horror is a perfect delivery system for bigger themes. It’s like putting the pill in peanut butter and bread to help in swallowing it down. The horror of Spiral really assists in delivering some big talks.


In Spiral a killer is taking out police officers all willy nilly. The killer has a new puppet, that dawns a cop uniform and is clearly a spiral eyed pig and a play on the cops being called pigs.

Chris Rock’s character is a cop who himself went against status quo and turned in a fellow officer who was corrupt. Bousman and Rock are treading carefully showing that there are “good” cops within the line of duty, but there aren’t many and even they have a hard time standing up and doing the right thing in the certain corruptible lights. So, yes they are saying there are good cops but the message is there that something still needs to be discussed.


The official synopsis of Spiral From the Book of Saw goes like this:

A sadistic mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in SPIRAL, the terrifying new chapter from the book of SAW. Working in the shadow of an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

Most notably, Bousman and Rock are taking the Saw formula and adding it to a gritty noir tale that resembles David Fincher’s Seven. Best of all, it does that while also playing by the rules of a 70s bad cop sploitation film. It exists in all those world’s but the portion of its roots that develop in the 70s gritty vibe is where the film is at its most fun. Again, like in Saw II and III Bousman is carefully walking this line with the audience and writing characters to be us in their functionality. It’s a line that Bousman walks well and I’m  impressed by how he has managed to evolve that and adapt it to ever changing elements that are this strange and inventive, bonkers franchise. Spiral: From the Book of Saw is an explosively, cool and heart racing rollercoaster  that offers up big whodunnit energy. These films haven’t all been great and we have our favorites. When it comes to this world, its approach and its characters new and old, Bousman adapts and evolves with turbo speeds. I’m beyond happy that he did more of that here.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is out now in theaters. You can also find the other Saw films on HBO Max.

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