The Saw series has scared the hell out of audiences for three straight films, but now the creators of that franchise are giving us another reason to be scared of dolls.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell bring us Dead Silence. After his wife is killed, Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) returns to the town of Ravens Fair; that's when he meets the mysterious and haunting Mary Shaw, a famous ventriloquist. The dolls start haunting Jamie and the rest of the town when he starts looking for the real killer of his wife.
Now when we spoke for Saw III, you said you were taking a break for a while; a few months doesn't seem like a while.
Leigh Whannell: No, it's not; but we work in dog years, so to us three months is three years. Actually, this film was written just after we finished shooting Saw 1; interesting that since that time, since we released Saw, we've released two other films. That says more about the speed at which we work on the Saw movies; they're made inhumanly fast. We've put ourselves in a niche market releasing one Saw movie for three straight years on Halloween; I'm not sure if that's been done before, but we were able to do it - and we're doing it again on Saw IV. But Dead Silence, that was made in a more traditional way; we spent months and months writing it, and we were working with Universal on this one.
Does your writing process change knowing you have a full studio backing?
Leigh Whannell: Yeah, it was different for us in every way. Saw was something I wrote in Australia for the love of it; this was pitched to the studio, they bought the pitch, and I went back to Australia and started writing it. This was like I was back in school; I had deadlines. Having a deadline was something so new to me, so it was kind of a blessing and a curse; I couldn't believe I was getting paid to write a script, but at the same time someone was waiting for me to finish it.
How are audiences going to get hooked to Dead Silence?
Leigh Whannell: The ventriloquism angle is great; everyone I've talked to who has seen that trailer has mentioned that creepy dummy. James and I have tapped into a universal fear; everyone seems to be freaked out by those ventriloquist dolls. Really, James and I were just sitting around talking about that dummy Jigsaw used in the first Saw; he only used it in one scene, but it took off and people were really freaked out by it. So we started talking about using the dolls in an entire movie; there had never really been a good ventriloquist movie. So the main hook of the film is if you're creeped out by dolls, you should go and see it; it's a real throwback to horror movies of yesteryear.
How did you make Jamie so vulnerable?
Leigh Whannell: We start out in a world where people recognize, but after his wife dies, he goes back to Ravens Fair - it's really our Sleepy Hollow. There's a shot in the film just when Jamie goes back to Ravens Fair; the camera tracks up to a sign that says 'Welcome to Ravens Fair, Quiet Little Town,' and then the camera goes right into the sign. I actually see that as the transition of where the camera goes into that other world, and it becomes different. In that sense, he becomes vulnerable because he's someone from our world and comes to this creepy town, like someone from the real world steps into an Edgar Allen Poe book.
If you were walking in a dark alley, who would you not want to see, Jigsaw or Mary Shaw's dolls?
Leigh Whannell: Ha, interesting, who would I rather not see? I think I'd rather not see Jigsaw; I think I can take the dolls. But then again, he's frail, he's got cancer; but I think I'll take the dolls cause I think I'd have a chance. I've ripped the heads off enough G.I. Joe's to back myself out of that.
What can fans expect from Saw IV?
Leigh Whannell: There's going to be a lot of shrieking; Jigsaw's going to make a speech somewhere in there. It's great because we've worked in a great twist end and we've pulled the rug right out of the audience. I can say this without revealing anything - we have found a way to pull the rug out from the audience; people are going to be like, 'Oh my gosh, they got us again.' So it'll be fun.
So you're going back to acting for Death Sentence?
Leigh Whannell: Yeah, I am. James just asked me if I wanted to come down and have a little cameo in the film; I'm not playing a huge role, just a one-scene cameo. It was great being back on the set in make-up, and it reminded me I do want to go back to acting. I feel like I've been so busy writing, and I wanted to get back. I'm working with James again on another movie, just the two of us writing something on spec, so hopefully I'll be acting in that one.
Dead Silence spooks up theaters March 16th; it's rated R.