It was recently announced that standup comic Chris Rock would be executive-producing a reboot of the Saw franchise for Lionsgate. The news has been met mostly with confusion and skepticism, but Rock has shown with projects like Top Five that he’s a fantastic filmmaker and storyteller.
He’s also promised “a really intense and twisted” take on the Saw mythology. So, moviegoers and horror buffs should keep an open mind about this. It checks out that Rock wouldn’t sign on to reboot Saw if he didn’t have an awesome idea for it. Here are 5 Things We Hope To See In Chris Rock’s Saw (And 5 We Don’t).
10 Want to see: Social commentary
Get Out proved that not only could the horror genre be used as an interesting prism through which to explore society’s ills; it might actually be the future of horror cinema. Chris Rock’s standup comedy has always cast a brutally honest light on race relations with sharp and incisive insight.
It would be interesting to see his Saw reboot follow in the footsteps of Jordan Peele’s acclaimed social thriller. Perhaps Rock’s new “intense and twisted” vision for Saw involves an African-American protégé of Jigsaw putting a bunch of white racists – or maybe white people who don’t think they’re racists, but are guilty of microaggressions – through the infamous “game.”
9 Don’t want to see: Easter eggs and callbacks
Franchise filmmaking these days is known for its use of Easter eggs and callbacks to wink to the audience that has followed the movies. But while this is fun in superhero movies and Star Wars, it doesn’t translate well to horror.
The best horror movies have an overwhelming sense of dread that permeates throughout the whole runtime, and if Chris Rock’s new Saw movie has a bunch of references to earlier Saw movies or any meta moments, it will remind us that we’re watching a movie and take us out of that sense of dread. So, the new reboot shouldn’t have any Easter eggs.
8 Want to see: Dark comedy
Chris Rock is one of the most hilarious voices in comedy, just like Jordan Peele and John Krasinski and Danny McBride and a bunch of other comedy stars who have taken the horror genre by storm recently, so it would be a disservice for the studio to ask him to put his sense of humor on the backseat for the Saw reboot.
Saw is one of the goriest, grisliest, most violent horror franchises of all time, so it’ll be tough to squeeze some humor in there. But if anyone can find the funny in Saw, then surely it’s Chris Rock.
7 Don’t want to see: A rehash of the original movie
The worst thing that this movie can do is repeat the mistakes of The Force Awakens. Instead of just mashing up all the classic Saw moments in a thinly veiled, loosely constructed rehash of the original movie like J.J. Abrams did with Disney’s first Star Wars movie, Rock’s reboot needs to give us a brand new plot.
Of course, he won’t want to go too far the other way and end up with The Last Jedi, a movie that is so far removed from all the Star Wars movies that came before it that fans rejected it. It’s all about finding that balance.
6 Want to see: Something new
As soon as the Saw reboot was announced, some of the franchise’s more skeptical fans feared that Chris Rock wouldn’t add anything new to the franchise, since there simply is nothing new to add to the franchise. We’ve been treated to eight Saw movies.
Every single Saw movie has revolved around a sadistic criminal mastermind pulling together a group of people and torturing them with a not-very-fun game. However, Rock seems to have a very interesting idea for the reboot – he just hasn’t told us what it is yet. Hopefully, he’ll be able to bring something fresh to the franchise’s well-worn plot formula.
5 Don’t want to see: Gratuitous violence
Later on in the run of the initial Saw franchise, the movies were characterized by violence, violence, and more violence. All the filmmakers did was put the nastiest, goriest scenes they could possibly imagine in front of the camera, and then point and shoot. True horror takes much more craft than that. So-called “torture porn” isn’t good enough.
The original Saw movie was so special because it avoided gratuitous violence. This made room for an actual plot, which had shades of David Fincher’s then-recent ‘90s classic Se7en, and it also meant that when the violence did happen, it had more impact. This might be tough now that the Saw fan base is totally desensitized to blood and gore, but if the filmmaking is masterful enough, it should be fine.
4 Want to see: Strong pacing
What makes Jordan Peele and other comedians such great horror filmmakers is that both comedy and horror are all about pace. Halloween co-writer Danny McBride explained, “Whether it’s to make [the audience] laugh or make them scream and s**t their pants, it’s all in the engineering of the pace.”
Chris Rock is only writing the story outline for the new Saw movie, while Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger – the screenwriting duo behind Jigsaw – will take that outline and turn it into a fully-fledged screenplay. So, Rock’s unique voice won’t be felt in every single scene, but hopefully his strong grasp of pacing will translate into the plot.
3 Don’t want to see: On-the-nose political satire
Since one black comic whose comedy examined racism made a horror movie, Chris Rock’s venture into the horror genre is being compared to that of Jordan Peele. But that doesn’t mean Rock should cram in on-the-nose political satire, Like Jigsaw saying he's "making the world great again" or something equally obvious.
Peele explained, “One of the beauties of the horror genre is it has a lot of connections to comedy...This is true for both horror and comedy: if they work, it’s because there’s some kind of social truth.” The First Purge is a more overtly political movie than Peele’s sophomore effort Us, but because The First Purge was too on-the-nose, Us succeeds much better as a political work.
2 Want to see: Characters we care about
One thing the Saw reboot – and every horror movie, for that matter – needs is characters that we actually care about, because if we care about them, then we’ll actually care whether or not they get killed.
John Krasinski has explained that this is why A Quiet Place works: “A friend of mine said, ‘I never pegged you to direct a horror movie.’ And I said, ‘Me neither,’ because I couldn’t even watch horror movies. And he said, ‘Oh, that’s why [A Quiet Place] is so good. Because, if you were shooting to make one of the best horror movies, you would have missed completely. And I think the fact you went into it writing a family drama, that you knew people would bond with this family, the scares are ten times scarier, because I don’t want anything to happen to this family.’”
1 Don’t want to see: Familiar characters
The Saw franchise has a bunch of weird, long-running, melodramatic narratives involving its huge cast of characters that we see play out, little by little, in each film. It’s like a soap opera with gore. Admittedly, some of those elements were kind of fun over the course of the eight movies we’ve seen so far. But their stories have been done to death and they’re dragging the franchise down.
It’s time to let those characters go. Apart from maybe an apprentice of Jigsaw being the villain, we need an entirely new batch of characters to fall in love with in this rebooted version of the series.