Chris Rock’s Gore-filled Thriller Is Cutting Up The Streaming Competition

Chris Rock's Spiral: From the Book of Saw is in the top ten most-watched movies on Hulu.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

chris rock

We’ll admit that Chris Rock isn’t usually the first actor you think of when you imagine great horror movies (after all, if he can’t stand up to Will Smith, he probably can’t stand up to most horror movie baddies), but that all changed with Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a film now streaming on Hulu. More and more horror fiends are discovering how great this movie is, and FlixPatrol reports that it has now crept into Hulu’s Top 10 this week. 

The plot of Spiral is quite intriguing: Chris Rock plays a detective who gets drawn into investigating the gruesome murders of what appears to be the Jigsaw Killer. This added more of a police procedural element to a series that mostly focuses on the victims and how they do (or usually don’t) escape devious and elaborate traps. This film feels at times like the hit Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman film Se7en, and that is mostly due to the influence and persuasive powers of Chris Rock.

While many horror movies have strange origin stories, Spiral is stranger than most. The movie wouldn’t exist at all if Chris Rock and Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns hadn’t met at the Brazilian wedding of a mutual friend. Seeing a chance to shoot his shot and potentially expand into an entirely new genre, Rock pitched the chairman his idea for a very different kind of Saw movie.

saw 9 spiral chris rock feature

Burns loved the ideas Chris Rock brought to the table and discussed them with Lionsgate CEO Joe Drake. The CEO dug Rock’s ideas because he thought the actor had found the sweet spot for respecting the films and lore that had come before while introducing some exciting new elements (such as comedic elements) to a series that had been getting stale. Franchises succeed or fail based on how well they can explore that sweet spot, which is why so many Star Wars movies and shows got canceled after the sizzle of the Sequel Trilogy turned into more of a drizzle.

Of course, some fans still think the real issue with the Star Wars sequels was that Disney ignored the ideas laid out by franchise creator George Lucas in favor of doing something new. That’s not the case for Spiral: franchise creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell executive produced this movie along with Chris Rock, which shows just how seriously everyone took this production. And in order to avoid this franchise getting even staler, Wan and Whannell were willing to accept Rock’s suggestion that they tamp down some of the gore the franchise is known for.

While the Saw franchise has had both some cinematic highs (like the first film) and some cinematic lows (that’s the nicest thing we can call Saw: The Final Chapter), these movies are mostly known to general audiences for pioneering the “torture porn” genre of films. This had a profound effect on horror filmmakers and led to some interesting copycat films such as Eli Roth’s Hostel movies. But the torture porn reputation had always turned certain audiences off, so franchise creators were receptive to Chris Rock’s ideas to make the blood and the gore serve the story rather than making it the focus of the film.

Everyone involved in Spiral seemed really excited about Chris Rock’s ideas, with producer Mark Burg saying that Rock’s script treatment was so good that it reminded him of what Eddie Murphy did in the iconic film 48 Hrs. But after the film wrapped, everyone had to contend with a real-world threat even scarier than the Jigsaw Killer: COVID-19. The movie’s release had to be delayed for a year, and it finally came out on May 14, 2021 (before its own pandemic delays, John Wick: Chapter 4 was originally supposed to come out one week later on May 21, 2021).

Once Spiral finally came out, it ended up grossing $40.6 million, making it a modest hit against its budget of $20 million. We suspect that more people would have seen this comedic horror movie if it hadn’t come out during the height of the pandemic, but it still did well enough that Lionsgate Television began making plans in 2021 to create a television series based on this film. And considering how many people are now discovering this hidden gem of a horror film on Hulu, it looks like there will be plenty of new fans ready to binge that TV show once it comes out.