Russell, Betsy; Greutert, Kevin; Mandylor, Costas; Elwes, Cary (Saw 3D)
All Hallow’s Eve approaches, and so does the supposed swan song of the Saw series. In what has become a Halloween tradition, the Saw movies have offered a funhouse ride filled with puzzles, contraptions and harsh Old Testament judgment. Made the wrong choices in life? Take something for granted? Bang! Find yourself locked in a steel death trap.
And much like the wisdom of Tommy Udo, Jigsaw wants his victims to roll around and think about it as they're trapped. But Betsy Russell (who plays Jill Tuck, Jigsaw’s ex-wife) has a different take and feels Jigsaw could very well be the hero. She feels his “message is [of] gratitude and making the right choices.” She goes on to say “[Jigsaw] has an opportunity to say, ‘Ok I know the end of my life is coming. These people don’t necessarily know when it is going to happen, but if they did and the time is now, what choices would they make differently?'”
Russell is also a big fan of the Saw fans. She feels they have heart and pay attention to every minute detail as they draw the clues together. This sentiment is shared by Saw 3D director Kevin Greutert and the film heavy Costas Mandylor. They noted that at conventions and on message boards the fans are very vocal, which is something the writers and actors tap directly into. “They get a good sense of what is working and not working,” Greutert goes so far as saying.
Mandylor also added that another part of keeping this series on-course has been Jigsaw himself, Tobin Bell, “[He kept] a standard of not letting the fans down.” Russell agrees, mentioning that working with Tobin pushed her to do her best. Bell would creep down during lunch to talk to her about script rewrites and squeezing in more rehearsal time. She also mentioned that not only is he a great colleague, but he is also a great neighbor: They live near one another in the same small hamlet. (One bit of local gossip: Bell, when coaching his son’s softball team, will occasionally use his Jigsaw voice to motivate the players (all in fun, of course...or so he says.)
Now, Cary Elwes, returning in his role as Dr. Gordon, has the most to thank the fans for. For years they have campaigned heavily for his character's return to the series, emailing the studios, writing about it on blogs, etc. He mentions, “The script has a clever way of bringing him back, and [Dr. Gordon's] appearance book-ends the series nicely.” But when asked if he thought this character had died in the first one, he replied yes. “Anyone who sawed his leg off with a rusty hacksaw is not going to get very far.” But what character is really ever down for the count in sequel-happy Hollyweird anyway? Certainly not Dr. Gordon.
One thing obvious in this last Saw film is that it's in 3D. Cinema has had many fads to rake in the bucks, but the feeling is 3D might stick this time around. And with the evolution of the process comes new technology and new challenges to the cast and crew. This was the first film shot in Toronto using all new 3D equipment, which required considerable adjustment and even on-the-job training for members of the crew. For the actors 3D just meant a longer set-up time due to specific lighting and calibration needs. They were also asked to vary moments to enhance the dimension of scenes. Mandylor was quite taken with the down time because it allowed him to “hang around the crew and crack jokes.” But was it worth it? Russell says yes. She would watch the film cut live on set and said this 3D yields amazing results and it looks and feels like you are actually in the scene.
For Greutert, shooting using 3D equipment made all the difference in the world. The challenge was to preserve the visual style of the previous Saw installments — hand-held and with lots of close-ups - while at the same time using the wide-angle lenses and compositions that allow the 3D process to work best. Greutert had to also think of scenes differently and block them in the right way to add depth. The studio had considered making Saw VI in 3D but ultimately chose against it. Now, because of the increasing abundance of theaters equipped for 3D, the time has come to unleash torture porn mayhem into the third dimension.
Did I say torture porn? Greutert feels the Saw films might be fetishistic but are certainly not about one gruesome special effect after another. There is an actual storyline going on, and the 'torture porn' label just cheapens the franchise. “What it is, is a psychological thriller,” he says. He also feels people that call these films torture porn have never seen a Saw film at all. And that may be so because if there is one thing Greutert is, it’s a true fan of the genre. When asked what was the last horror film that left an impression on him, he mentioned Martyrs for it was both brutal and elevated. He is also a huge fan of Herzog’s Nosferatu and Suspiria. The style of the Saw films, he finds, is clearly rooted in Argento and Bava. And if you think back to the needles taped ever so delicately under the eyes of Cristina Marsillach in Opera, he just might be on to something.
Since this is reportedly the last Saw film, why end it here? Greutert claims that there is no way to keep outdoing the previous movies. He would rather go out with a “bang” than allow it to languish and really wanted to tie up all the endings and not have a cliffhanger. My suggestion is take the Saw films to Broadway or maybe grand guignol street performances? Jigsaw on Ice? Nah. Maybe they should just end it here.
But who dies, and what will be left of them? Since alternate endings are always shot, not even Mandylor knows if he’ll be alive or dead. And as Russell added, “Most cast members do not get the last 20 pages," but she is always lucky enough to be granted that privilege ... So is she the one to ask before October 29th?
If Russell won't spoil it for you, perhaps you can torture it out of Elwes, who gives this final Saw film a truly ringing endorsement: “It’s without a doubt the most graphically violent film I have ever seen in my entire life.” It was so relentless that he found himself laughing hysterically out of sheer anxiety. If that is not a reason to go see it, I don’t know what to tell you. But judge for yourself, fright fiends.
Saw 3D is coming to a theater near you this Friday October, 29th. Are you up for the game?
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