Is it too bold a statement that the Saw franchise is one of the most inventive psychological horror series with crude elements of a slasher flick and some intense shock value? We think not! What started in 2004 has been continuing through all these years and the franchise has treated the fans to some truly devious and thrilling stories.
Besides entertaining millions of horror fans, the movie also establishes one of the most compelling villains in modern horror – the deranged psychopathic killer, Jigsaw. The general theme has been a situation, where the Jigsaw killer tests the will to live in people by putting them in some unthinkably painful situations with the most outrageous and painful choices to survive.
You may be a fan of the Saw movies, or you may hate them, but you simply cannot deny their impact on the horror landscape over the last two decades. If you are one of those insatiable fans with a morbid curiosity to learn more about this brutal film series, this video is where you will have it all! We bring you some of the behind-the-scenes trivia and lesser-known facts that will make the series all the more intriguing for you!
The Blair Witch Project sparked the legacy of Saw
The horror fans will all be familiar with the brilliance of The Blair Witch Project – a found-footage style horror flick that could spook you to the bones. The effective nature and the scary elements of this low-budget movie inspired James Wan and Leigh Whannell. They believed that they could accomplish something similar with minimal funds, and that is how the idea behind Saw came up.
Whannell wrote the screenplay and co-created the story with Wan, and they had the initial draft ready as early as 2001. But, it wasn’t an easy task for them to get the project accepted. They ran out of luck in their home country, Australia, and eventually, they traveled to Los Angeles to materialize their dream movie. The duo even got a low-budget short film made to convince the producers, and finally, the project was approved.
James Wan was also heavily inspired by Hitchcockian thrillers, and he initially planned to shape the film in line with Hitchcock’s classic themes. However, the budget did not permit him the luxury and that is how you have the typical Saw-style of filmmaking, with grim film stock, quick cuts, and a harsh color palette! All’s well that ends well – indeed!
A shoestring budget and some extreme measures!
The first movie in the franchise had its fair bit of struggle, and the meager budget was one of the biggest handicaps that the makers had to deal with. The production budget was just under $1 million, which is literally unthinkable for modern cinema. The whole thing was completed in just 18 days, which is once again a phenomenal feat for a full-length feature film. Of course, this called for some extreme measures and the creators and the actors had to work through these.
The number of takes permitted for each scene was extremely limited, and one of the makers, James Wan, later found out that he didn’t have enough during the edit work. You will notice certain moments in the film that cut to newspaper clippings, still photographs, and surveillance camera footage. These look pretty cool and innovative today, but in reality, these were simply forced experiments that the creators had to indulge in to fill in certain gaps in the movie. It was worth all the hard work because the movie was a grand success and made over $103 million worldwide!
The true inspiration behind the Jigsaw killer
The Jigsaw killer pulls the strings and commands the narrative, and he is easily one of the most terrifying horror antagonists that we can think of. The lack of true purpose behind his heinous acts makes him scarily unpredictable, and the ordeal he puts his victims through is not for the faint-hearted. However, the idea behind such an iconic horror villain was conceived in a rather weird situation.
One of the creators, Leigh Whannell used to suffer from agonizingly persistent migraine attacks, and he was convinced that a fatal brain tumor was the cause behind his excruciating pain. He went to a neurologist for an MRI scan to get his worst fear confirmed, and this was one of the most terrifying periods of his life.
While his fate was hanging in a balance, Whannell started to imagine how a man would behave if he had a fixed time limit to live! Eventually, this brought up the idea of a demented individual who would put people in this tricky situation. We are glad that his fears were put to rest, and all it resulted in was the perfect horror villain who would continue to haunt the fans for decades!
Partially influenced by some real-life people and true stories!
You probably don’t think of Saw as a franchise inspired by true events, but you would be surprised to learn that some of the moments in the films are borrowed from real life. For instance, the character of Zep, who does the kidnappings for Jigsaw, was inspired by a true story. James Wan had read about this crazy man, who would break into people’s houses at night simply to tickle their feet.
This serial tickler wouldn’t rob people or try to kill them, but his weird fetish was still creepy enough to inspire a psychopathic kidnapper. When the man was finally nabbed by the cops, he claimed that he was being forced to do all this by someone, and a jigsaw puzzle piece was sent to him in the mail, instructing him to go and tickle people!
There were even reports of Spiral, the latest addition to the franchise, being partially inspired by a true story. However, real-life inspiration for horror flicks is not entirely uncommon, and Saw has simply used the horrors of actual life to create the creepy fiction.
The initial concept behind Saw was very different
James Wan is credited for coming up with the basic idea, where two people would be trapped in a room. He shared the idea with Whannell, who then came up with the title and together they delved deeper into the intricate details of the story. Their initial plan was to have a dead body between the two people to make things creepier. They had also planned to shoot the whole thing inside the elevator and use only the camera footage for the shots.
Eventually, an old warehouse was all it took to get the sets ready, and it is amazing how the duo managed to terrify the audience through their teamwork and innovative thinking. The first movie also gave enough confidence to James Wan about his directorial skills. Later, he went on to direct popular hits like Insidious and The Conjuring, and he is regarded highly by horror fans all over the world.
Shawnee Smith almost didn’t star in the movie
It is no secret that the overall concept behind Saw can be a bitter pill to swallow for many. Thus, it doesn’t come across as a surprise when we hear about Shawnee Smith being in a dilemma when she received the offer. The role seemed too horrifying for her, and she had no intention of being a part of something so harshly graphic and scary.
Some other actresses had already backed out of the role, and Shawnee Smith was a perfect fit for the character. It took some convincing from James Wan, and watching the short film that the creators had developed to woo the producers worked as well. Finally, she was on board to be a part of the movie, and she is surely thankful for the choice that she made back then!
Billy the puppet was no more than a low-budget prop
We have already spoken about the terribly low budget of the original movie. You surely remember Billy the Puppet, the unofficial mascot of the franchise with his creepy eyes and voice, riding a tricycle. This was in every way a perfect mouthpiece for his psychopathic boss, and James Wan had to make the most of his limited means to get the puppet together. It was built using clay, papier-mache, and black ping-pong balls were used for the eyes. After the grand financial success of the first film, Saw II had a bigger budgetary allocation to permit them the luxury of using animatronics for the puppet.
Saw II was shrouded in secrecy
It is an essential for thrillers and nail-biting horror flicks to keep the audiences guessing the whole time and the last thing the makers want is a spoiler being leaked in advance. Clearly, the people behind Saw II were no different and they took some drastic steps to keep things secretive.
The last twenty-five pages of the script were withheld from most of the cast-members, and only the ones who were involved in the last scene got the actual script. Even this wasn’t considered enough of a safeguard, and the creators went ahead with five alternative endings being filmed. The secrecy did help the cause on this occasion, and thankfully, no prior leaks disrupted the movie.
The human insides were actually pig guts
Well, of course they were! What did you expect? Actual human insides used for the scenes? Jokes apart, this is quite a common practice adapted for several low-budget horror flicks. Saw was no exception and for many of the gory scenes, what you see on the screen are basically pig guts scattered around.
It must have been a harrowing experience for the actors and crew members on the sets, but there was no other way to get the job done cheaply! In the scene, where Amanda stabs her cellmate and digs through his guts to look for the key to her trap, she is basically searching through loads of pig intestines, which we have to admit is a great alternative for human insides!
The films endured some sharp criticism
The movies in the franchise haven’t been spared from some very harsh words despite all the success and fan following. The mainstream critics have treated the franchise with disdain, and the disregard for the graphic violence has been lashed out from several quarters. The New York Times went on to call the movies of the franchise, ‘a distasteful idea’, and LA Times regarded them as vile filth.
Some have even considered the films as torture porn, and the grey area between artistic and moral boundaries has been widely discussed. The opinions and criticisms, however, did little to halt the grand success of the franchise, and the popularity only grew further with time.
That being said, some countries went so far ahead as to ban some of the movies in the series. Saw XI and Saw 3D, for instance, were banned in Thailand and Germany, although they have relatively toned-down violence compared to some others. Saw VI was banned in Spain, and the films regularly ran into trouble with the censor boards over the rating.
James Wan or Leigh Whannell had no plans to return for Saw III
James Wan and Leigh Whannell are two names that hold way too much importance if you consider the Saw franchise. They came up with the original, were involved in parts of the sequel and the best of the franchise actually came from them! However, the two had no plans of being a part of the third film in the franchise. Even Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of Saw II, hadn’t accepted the offer to feature in part III.
It all changed after the sudden, untimely death of producer Gregg Hoffman who was only 42 years old. He passed away barely a few weeks after Saw II had released, and James and Leigh had a special emotional connection with the man because he was the one who helped bring their vision to life! They decided to be a part of the third movie alongside Darren, and it was all for Gregg Hoffman, as a tribute! The late producer always dreamed of having three films in the franchise, and the trio made sure to honor his wishes through Saw III.
Saw II’s Needle Room trap required a special effort
It is easily one of the most memorable scenes in Saw II, when the character played by Shawnee Smith is thrown into a pit of hypodermic needles and she has to search for a key. This scene looked truly spooky and made people squirm in their seats, but it required a superhuman effort to get the props ready.
Four people were tasked with the job of removing needle tips from almost one hundred and twenty thousand syringes, and they also had to replace them with fiber optic tips. To make the scene perfect, these blunted syringes were made to stick to her. She also had the protective cover of padding underneath her clothing, and even a fake arm was used for some of the shots. The innovation was on point and it came together so nicely that the scene became one of the iconic moments in the entire franchise.
A few final words
The franchise has delivered stomach-churning horror flicks time and again, and the innovative traps and the agonizing deaths are the hallmarks of the series. Obviously, these movies are not for the squeamish, and one should be prepared to embrace the most unexpected form of violence in the narrative. However, all said and done, it still remains one of the most unique horror franchises of all time, and that in itself deserves some credit. Do let us know in the comments below about the facts that amazed you the most, and let us know about your favorite in the series!