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What's in the box?! Chris Rock wasn't playing any Jigsaw-type games when he approached the head of Lionsgate at a friend's wedding and pitched them a brand-new project set within the Saw universe. That idea eventually became Spiral: From the Book of Saw, which hopes to reboot the franchise with a dark and gritty take that steers clear of the torture porn formula.
"Chris came in with a thriller concept. He pitched this very elaborate, dense idea," director Darren Lynn Bousman, who previously helmed Saws II - IV, told Empire Magazine for the publication's March 2021 issue. We wanted it to feel much more like [David Fincher's] Se7en, but it has so many ties to the mythos of Saw ... Gore and violence was the gimmick [for the earlier movies], I think. Gore and violence is no longer a gimmick — it just serves the story. This is much more about character, tension, and fear."
Being a comedian by trade, though, Rock helped infuse the screenplay (written by series veterans Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger) with some "outrageously hilarious" elements that helps offset the film's more nihilistic elements. "Chris is the real deal," Bousman added. "He's not only got the genre, he was kind of an expert in it. He would make these obscure references and I'd be like, 'How the f*** do you know that?'"
Not content to stay behind-the-scenes, Rock is also Spiral's leading man. He plays Detective Zeke Banks, a New York City homicide cop who starts investigating a string of grisly killings throughout the Big Apple, which are somehow connected to the infamous Jigsaw killer. Max Minghella (The Handmaid's Tale) takes on the role of Zeke's young partner, Detective William Schenk, while Samuel L. Jackson (Marvel's Secret Invasion) plays Zeke's father, Marcus Banks. Marisol Nichols (Riverdale) and Zoie Palmer (Dark Matter) round out the rest of the principal cast.
Bousman also explained why he exited the franchise in the first place, stating that it had become "such a well-oiled machined. I felt like I could have stepped outside and the movies still would have continued. It stopped being a challenge to me. It was such a juggernaut."
Spiral is set to hit theaters Friday, May 21. It was originally supposed to open last May, but was delayed to this year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the health crisis continues to mess with theaters by the time the spring rolls around, there's a decent chance the reboot will be delayed again or possibly shifted to a streaming service.
You can watch the first trailer right here. With the new release date just a few months away, we expect a second one to drop soon.