Fans of the ultra-popular horror series Saw have really come to mentally associate Tobin Bell with the franchise. Even though Tobin Bell’s character died all the way back in Saw III, the lingering influence his character has continued to have on the franchise is a well-liked aspect that crops up through most of the series. This is why Tobin Bell’s exclusion from the latest Saw entry starring Chris Rock, titled Spiral, left some fans (myself included) yearning for the character’s return.
For those who don’t know, Spiral was sort of a soft reboot for the franchise. Starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as The Handmaid's Tale’s Max Minghella and Riverdale’s Marisol Nichols, Spiral is about another Jigsaw copycat killer, and Chris Rock’s character’s quest to stop him. That said, even with the alternate title, the film is still labeled as the 9th entry in the series, so it’s definitely a continuation rather than its own thing.
Some fans likely expected there to be a flashback scene like in previous Saw movies, but that didn’t come to be. Here’s what Tobin Bell had to say of his exclusion from the movie in an article from Comicbook.com:
I haven't gotten to see the film yet. And I was aware of that, but I think eventually they put their heads together and decided [not to do it]. Chris Rock is a very creative guy. So with Chris, maybe they felt like they just had enough. I don't know. I haven't seen the film, so I don't have an idea. But I can tell you that the creative minds behind Saw are not asleep. And, hopefully, we'll be able to move forward with something that's both refreshing and answers some questions that need answering.
That’s actually a pretty interesting response since it definitely sounds like Tobin Bell would be down for returning to the franchise in the future if he were asked to come back. Having seen Spiral and the new interpretation of Jigsaw, I was definitely missing the trademark voice of Tobin Bell when it came to the Jigsaw doll. The idea of a new copycat killer isn’t a new thing for the series, as that’s pretty much been the MO from Saw IV and onward.
Yet, Tobin Bell’s absence in this recent one felt particularly jarring for me given the tone of the film, which sometimes felt like it had a hard time making up its mind between whether it wanted to be a horror film or a horror comedy. Tonally, Tobin Bell’s presence, or at least the idea of Tobin Bell’s character, has always grounded the film in the horror genre.
Now, some people may argue that Saw’s main star attraction is actually its traps, and I wouldn’t disagree with those people. But right behind the traps would definitely be Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw, who unfortunately felt more absent than ever in this recent movie, with some even feeling it factored into Spiral being a subpar entry in the series.