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Get An Intriguing New Look At Chris Rock's Spiral: From The Book Of Saw

The early 2000s represented a sea change in horror moviemaking. A generation of kids who probably shouldn't have been watching the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes had grown up into filmmakers with a thirst for body horror, gore, and torture. Suddenly, the horror genre was inundated with stuff like Cabin Fever, Wrong Turn, and an entire wave of New French Extremity — all designed to make audiences remember that there are torments which make death seem like a luxury.

If that wave of gratuitous, violent horror had a mainstream face, it was most certainly Saw. The first film in the franchise not only introduced us to Jigsaw, but it also kicked off the careers of both director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) and screenwriter Leigh Whannel (Upgrade, The Invisible Man).

Saw has a simple conceit: a man subjects people to a series of ever-horrifying torture devices in order to see who truly wishes to be alive and to what lengths they will go in order to survive. The methods of torture grew steadily more elaborate over the course seven films between 2004 and 2010. An attempt at bringing Saw back occurred with the 2017 film Jigsaw, but a fresh effort at rebirth fort the Saw franchise is coming in 2021.

Spiral is neither a reboot nor a direct sequel to Saw, but it is a continuation, both produced by and starring Chris Rock. And if you were looking for proof that Spiral is sill a Saw movie, you need only look at the newest image from the upcoming film.

Spiral's new style means less gore, more tension

John Kramer (Tobin Bell), the actual Jigsaw, is a figure the Saw franchise revealed very gradually at first. What we witnessed instead was a very unusual figure: Billy the Puppet. Billy, sometimes rolling in on a tricycle, was the creepy toy which would appear to Jigsaw's victims and explain their dire circumstances.

There have been multiple incarnations of the Billy doll over the years, but one thing they tend to have in common is that their rosy cheeks are marked by a spiral design. Of course, Spiral is the name of the latest Saw movie, and it may not come as a surprise to anyone that the latest image (courtesy of Empire) from the film features Chris Rock's Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks investigating a spray-painted spiral tag on the walls outside what appears to be police headquarters.

When we've gotten our first images and trailers for previous Saw films, we've been accustomed to that 2000s blood-curdling terror. This new, more mysterious tone seems to signal an intentional shift. In the new Empire interview, director Darren Lynn Bousman spoke about how Rock was coming at the Saw franchise from a new angle. "Chris came in with a thriller concept," he said. "He pitched this very elaborate, dense idea. We wanted it to feel much more like Seven. But it has so many ties to the mythos of Saw."

And, yes, that new tone also means less gore. "I was a younger person," said Bousman of his days directing previous entries Saw II, III, and IV. "Gore and violence was the gimmick, I think. Gore and violent is no longer a gimmick –- it just serves the story. This is much more about character, tension and fear."

Spiral is due in theaters on May 21, 2021.