Newcomers Jams Wan and Leigh Whannell have made quite an impression with their debut film. Saw is a serial killer movie filled with plot twists and reveals, a killer with weapons so elaborate it makes one wonder about the writers who really created them and moral scenarios that make everyone think. While critics debate how few plot holes there actually are, director Wan takes no such pride.
“Oh, I’m sure there’s plenty,” Wan said. “Big ones too, I’m sure.”
Whannell, who co-wrote the script and plays a lead character, added, “There are certain things, I guess movie cheats that you do. It’s like I love The Shawshank Redemption, but how does the guy get the poster back up on the wall when he crawled into the tunnel. You can either sit there and go, ‘How did they do that? What’s the answer?’ It didn’t really happen, so there is no answer. People can sit with us all day and go ‘but how, but how, but how?’ From my personal viewpoint, you’re allowed a certain leeway with the film to have a little bit of a movie cheat for the sake of your story, because it is a fantasy world at the end of the day. But it’s all about the scales. If you tip too far one way, people are going to pick you up on it.”
Movie PictureUltimately, the two are not afraid of people picking apart their movie, because they never thought it would get studio distribution in the first place. “You gotta remember, we never expected this film to be shown en masse to American audiences,” Whannell said. “When you’re making a film at that independent level, you don’t really have a fear of including Dario Argento-ish outlandishness, because you never expect that your mainstream person will be paying good money to see this film.”
However, the reason the film attracted mainstream stars like Cary Elwes and Danny Glover, and is being distributed by Lion’s Gate Films, is because the story attracted so many people on the talent and corporate level. “This was always supposed to be a guerilla film,” Wan said. “And it just so happened that we spent so much time working on the screenplay that certain people read it and wanted to put a bit more money into it and make it properly. And that’s why the indie spirit is still in our script, that really nasty edge that we had. The only reason why we put all those things in there in the first place was because we needed to stand out. When you’re a guerilla, small indie film, if you don’t have Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson or Brad Pitt in it, you really need to find other ways to get people’s attention. And this was it.”
Whannell added, “I think a big part of the reason we’re here, with you guys interested and people interested is because of of the crazy stuff in there. It’s almost like the very thing that people would question is the very thing that gets people going and talking about the film. So it’s one against the other, what do you go for? Do you want to go for a realism sort of thing and have your film kind of slide quietly into the ether, or do you want to be pretty out there and get people talking?”
Movie PictureTo get people talking, Whannell abandoned the realistic techniques of serial killers and thought of the most eye-catching concepts he could. The Jigsaw Killer in Saw puts people in situations that they could get themselves out of, but not without doing the unthinkable. One man is forced to crawl out of a web of razor wire, another is covered in flammable substance and forced to crack a code by candle light.
“It’s not really about okay, what would a real serial killer do,” Whannell said. “For us, it was more about visuals and doing something different. When I was writing it, I wasn’t actually researching serial killers and doing interviews with different psychologists. I was more interested in coming up with something like if you look at the films of Dario Argento, they’re really outlandish sort of death scenes. He’s into his creative kills. And he’s not trying to reference anything from real life. He’s making a film and so I think he’s trying to do something that you could never see in real life which a lot of this is. It’s weird, because we kind of presented the film in a realistic way with two guys in a bathroom, and then another part of the film is quite surreal a little bit. I mean, the jaw trap, what the hell is the jaw trap? Who would build that? Why not just hang her or something? Why? So it’s more about us wanting to do something kind of really different and kind of grand.”
Only one of his ideas was cost prohibitive. “There was the iron cocoon,” Whannell said. “Originally, one of the characters was going to get killed by these two things that come out of the walls and snap shut on either side of you and then fold you down like into a box. But when I told James about that, he’s like, ‘Uh, we’re going to do that with what money?’ So he actually tried to find a way to do it. He built a wooden model. Remember that model you had where you pushed the walls in and then you folded? Eventually, James was like, ‘How about just shotguns? Let’s just do shotguns.’”
Still, the development process never softened up the material. “I think it was always going to be a very extreme film,” Wan said. “I made it pretty clear that I wanted to really push it and I think as we went along, I think it picked up its own momentum in a way. It became this beast on its own and it became something slightly more formal, but I always saw it as a pretty out there film. Once again, I just wanted to take you to the edge and just push it over even more. That’s what Argento used to do. He really went for the extreme stuff and I’m a big fan of that. I don't know if that sort of stuff works today with today’s very cynical audience. But that was what we were trying to do.”
Saw opens October 29.
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