How Filming Spiral Terrified Chris Rock In Real Life

The seventh film in the "Saw" series was called "The Final Chapter," but, as we learned from "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter," "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday," and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," final is never final. Since the release of "Saw 3D: The Final Chapter" in October of 2010, there have been two additional films in the series, "Jigsaw" in 2017, and "Spiral" in 2021, revealing that audiences just can't get enough of gory death puzzles and deliciously horrid mutilation. 

"Spiral" — directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the filmmaker behind "Saw II," "Saw III," and Saw IV" — starred Chris Rock as a detective named Zeke Banks who was on the trail of the now-deceased Jigsaw Killer, or perhaps one of his many acolytes. Bouseman, when talking to Entertainment Tonight in May of 2021, was thrilled to approach Rock about the possibility of starring in the ninth "Saw" movie. Bousman said that Rock could remember details about the films' convoluted plots better than he could, and the comedian and actor revealed that he was a fan of the "Saw" movies, especially the second one:

 "...And they just go up a notch and a notch and a notch and you're like, whoa. They're like roller-coaster rides. When you're on a roller coaster, sometimes you're happy and sometimes you're cursing out the roller coaster and then you want to do it again."

But when it came to actually shooting "Spiral," Rock found himself a little disturbed by the rawness of the scenes. "Spiral" was Rock's first horror film — "Grown Ups 2" doesn't count — and he had never been that close to such a massive volume of blood.

The blood

In the same interview with Entertainment Weekly, Rock's co-star Max Minghella revealed that the death traps — just as elaborate in "Spiral" has they have been throughout the series — were impressive and, in some cases, fully functional. Which means actors had to be strapped into them as act as if they were being tortured. Additionally, there is a great deal of blood used in "Saw" movies, as there will have to be at least one saw ripping through human flesh. Otherwise why make the film? 

Rock said that there were days on set where he would be coated with fake blood, watching people getting tortured in functional death machines (which weren't actually lethal, but still), and he would have to remind himself that this was all for show:

"You have to remind yourself it's not really happening. Even when you're close, you see the blood and you're like, 'Are they killing a stunt man just to get the shot?!' But they assure you that it's fake. I hope it's fake. Yeah, it's actually scarier there."

The real thing

While horror movies generally take careful precautions to assure that no one is being hurt during scenes of on-screen violence, and all the violence is cleverly faked — for "Friday the 13th," for instance, filmmakers would wrap a watermelon in a shirt and stab that instead — when dealing with such a raw, rusty movie as "Spiral," one can easily understand how it might feel a little bit too real. The "Saw" movies in particular aren't known for their light sense of humor or haunted house sense of fun. They are deliberately brutal. The first "Saw" was released in the wake of 9/11 and during a time of then-new war. It hit theaters only six months after the release of the torture images from Abu Ghraib reached the public. The legacy of the "Saw" franchise involves facing the most horrendous physical pain imaginable. Films that aggressively confront audiences with scenes of human suffering cannot be easy to shoot. 

Rock doesn't comment on the tone of the set — perhaps Bousman attempted to keep things as light as possible — but he did admit to being terrified, and covered with very real (fake) blood. 

Blood always looks better when an actor is splashed with sticky strands of a real, viscous substance; CGI blood never looks good. In order to film that, however, an actor actually has to step up and be splattered. After a while, some of the artifice may begin to fall away. The best blood, as we all learned from Bruce Campbell, can come from a simple combination of a half bottle of Karo syrup, a full bottle of red food coloring, and a large scoop of powdered non-dairy creamer, and then, to make sure the color is just right, add a few drops of blue food coloring as well. With fake blood so easy to make with items from your local grocery store, there's no reason not to spray actors with the stuff. 

"Spiral" is currently available through the streaming services Starz and DirecTV, and can be rented through several other online rental stores.