Picture this: You’re an executive at Lionsgate, and you’ve got a meeting in your diary with comedian Chris Rock. What’s the first thing you imagine? He’s coming in to pitch you on a new stand-up special, or a middle-aged dad-dude-bro buddy comedy co-starring Adam Sandler? Maybe, just maybe, a sequel to Everybody Hates Chris called Everybody Still Hates Chris: The College Years? Whatever options run through your mind, I doubt “The ninth installment in the Saw franchise” is on the list. And yet — that’s a day someone actually had apparently, because today the news broke that Lionsgate is passing the reins to the Saw franchise to Chris Rock!
The new film, which already has a release date (October 23, 2020), will be based on an original story idea from Chris Rock and written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. But it won’t just be the ninth film in the series — it sounds like it’ll be a reboot of sorts. From The Hollywood Reporter:
“When Chris Rock came to us and described in chilling detail his fantastic vision that reimagines and spins-off the world of the notorious Jigsaw Killer, we were all-in,” said Lionsgate motion picture group chairman Joe Drake in a statement. “Saw is one of the highest grossing horror franchises of all-time and it’s one of Lionsgate’s most successful film series. This upcoming film will still be as mind bending and intense as all the previous Saw films. Chris conceived this idea and it will be completely reverential to the legacy of the material while reinvigorating the brand with his wit, creative vision and passion for this classic horror franchise.”
And sure, this idea may sound like it’s coming straight out of left field, but… I think I like it? As Dustin put it when he reviewed the last Saw film, Jigsaw, back in 2017: “… the novelty is mostly gone. They’ve poked it and prodded it and looked at it from different angles, but there’s not much life left in the series.” Lionsgate released a staggering 8 Saw films across 13 years — and most of them were released yearly like clockwork from 2004-2010. IP like this, profitable to the tune of a billion dollars, doesn’t get to just fade away — which makes me respect a studio that’s willing to take an unexpected swing to revitalize their brand rather than continuing to beat it like a morally compromised dead horse.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Chris Rock is the man for the job, but he’s also not NOT the man for the job. What I mean is — I wanna know what his idea of horror would be. I’d checked out of the Saw franchise sometime after the pit of syringes gag, but I’d happily jump back on board to see what he’ll do with this sandbox, simply because I have no frame of reference. I can’t even contemplate what scares Chris Rock, or what drew him to this particular tale of torture. All I know is that Rock doesn’t need this on his resume, or in his bank account. Which means it’s something he actually wants to do — and that intrigues me.
If you’re more emotionally attached to the franchise than I am, the good news is that Rock isn’t recreating it from scratch — or on his own. The film will be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who helmed 3 of the previous Saw films, and creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell will be joining Rock as executive producers. But it’s the involvement of Mark Burg and Oren Koules, producers on each of the previous Saw films, that may be the most important element. Their statement on Rock’s involvement was telling:
“Chris wants to put his own spin on the Saw franchise in the way Eddie Murphy put a completely fresh perspective on buddy-cop films with 48 Hours. This new Saw is going to be an event film in the making for horror fans.”
It’s rare that Hollywood really surprises me, but if Lionsgate and Chris Rock pull this off? It could lead to more unexpected collaborations. And if it bombs? Well, that’ll be fascinating in its own way, won’t it?
Header Image Source: Getty Images/Lionsgate