Eagle-eyed Saw fans may have already realised that Billy, the iconic trike-riding puppet from the previous films in the franchise, seems to have been replaced in Spiral: From the Book of Saw.
Spiral, the ninth instalment in the Saw franchise, stars Chris Rock as Zeke Banks, a detective who tries to unravel a spate of new killings that are eerily reminiscent of the work of John Kramer (AKA The Jigsaw Killer, played by Tobin Bell in all eight of the previous Saw movies). But because Jigsaw has been dead since Saw 3, there must be something else going on.
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, Spiral's director Darren Lynn Bousman – who also directed Saw 2, Saw 3 and Saw 4 – explained the thinking behind the new puppet/doll. As it turns out, it all comes down to the fact that Spiral is not going by the title Saw 9.
"If I was brought in to direct Saw 9, that would be a much different thing than being brought in to direct Spiral," Bousman explained. "And I think that it's important for me to differentiate the two. Spiral: From the Book of Saw is not called Saw 9 for a reason. It's because it's the ninth instalment of this franchise, but it's not Saw 9, because there will never be another Tobin Bell, there will never be another Jigsaw."
"And I didn't want to insult the fans by trying to make another Jigsaw," Bousman added, "because there's only one Tobin Bell, and no one can hold a candle to what he brought into that character. So for me, I wanted to go a completely different way. I wanted the killer to be so different from Jigsaw that there would be no comparison to that. They are different people. So when you start going down that road, you have to change out kind of everything. Because if you're trading out Jigsaw, you've got to change out the doll as well."
So if this isn't a film about Jigsaw, what is it about? Bousman says: "The idea of this is that Jigsaw, John Kramer, existed. He was real and he killed people. This takes place in the universe where that happened, and the person that we're seeing was inspired by [Jigsaw], and you see that – you see copycats a lot with serial killers.
"And it wasn't even that he's a copycat trying to be John Kramer. He's taken things that John Kramer spoke of and elevated it. John Kramer spoke of trying to reform an individual; take a drug addict, hold the mirror up to their life and say, 'Appreciate what you have, you're better than this.' This killer, our new killer, is reforming an institution, a big group of people. And I think that he's taking it to the next level, which is, in my mind, the ultimate legacy of what John Kramer wanted: to make a change, a cultural impact. And that is what this guy is doing."
Since the new puppet resembles a pig in a police uniform, there are no prizes for guessing which institution Spiral's new killer is trying to reform. But to see how that plays out, you'll just need to check out the film for yourself.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is in UK cinemas from May 17th. If you want to watch the entire Saw franchise, you can purchase the boxset of the first 8 films on Amazon. Want to find something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide. Visit our Movies hub for all the latest news.