Yesterday afternoon Bloody Disgusting hit up Universal Studios in Hollywood for a special tour with Creative Director John Murdy, who walked us through his in-progress maze “SAW: GAME OVER”, one of three haunted houses slated for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at both Orlando and Hollywood locations. For those hardcore horror fans hoping to attend, beyond the break you can read everything that will take place in Jigsaw’s maze of terror.
A brief intro: The new SAW experiences, to be presented at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event, will mark the first time that SAW characters and stories will be developed as “live” attractions in a U.S. theme park. At Universal Studios Hollywood, characters, themes and live action recreations of the infamous “traps” from the entire SAW horror franchise will be featured in a “maze” experience, in multiple “scare zones” and aboard the parks signature “Terror Tram,” where guests will be subjected to a deadly “game” that will echo a story element instantly recognizable to SAW’s legion of fans. The team designing the live SAW experiences includes the Universal Studios Hollywood creative department as well as Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures.
A SAW attraction will also be included in the Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Orlando.
“We had to find the greatest hits for all of these movies and bring them to life.,” Creative Director John Murdy explains as we embark on our tour of SAW: GAME OVER, the new franchise maze taking over Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood this fall. The event is planned a year in advance, in fact, the studio came down to see how cool it was.
“We started this in June, Halloween is a year round project. I start during the event thinking about the next year. While we were doing Halloween 2008, filmmakers and Lionsgate were coming down to experience Halloween Horror Nights. They came out saw it last year and saw the level of details…”
But unlike many haunted houses across the globe, Uni takes pride in brining high quality, original content to their mazes. You won’t see any store-brought masks.
“Our target as far as designers is the hardest-core fan in any series. If we hit that demographic, than everyone else will dig it,” he explains talking about how if horror fans are happy, everyone should be.
Even Billy, the iconic puppet from the SAW films, is being remade just for this year’s event.
“[We're] filming Billy tomorrow morning,” Murdy reveals adding that Billy will also be features on the Terror Tram attraction. “SAW also plays in the Terror Tram this year, especially Billy. Were actually building Billy, who is animatronics that moves and talks, which you’ll see in this attraction. But were using him first for a film shoot that will factor into the Terror Tram, because Billy has a test for everyone on the Terror Tram,” adding that there are five originally produced videos just for the tram ride.
As we walked in, you could see the meat of the maze, although none of the “dressings” were in place yet. Murdy walks us through and explains what we’ll all be seeing come fall. First was a bricked room, where Billy makes his first appearance. He talks to us as we see ourselves on a screen being videotaped by Jigsaw. After walking through the barbed wire (from SAW), we are taken to the infamous bathroom scene where I all began.
“We as designers have to pick the scene that you see. We tend to pick the goriest,” he explains, “Dr. Gordon is going to be sawing his leg off. Blood sprays on the guest and then that’s the distraction, the scare is he’s [Adam] popping out of a secret door to scare you. Of course you’re seeing the dead body on the floor…with the tape recorder…Dr. Gordon [sawing off his leg].”
This transitions into the eyehole sequence from SAW II, where a gun is on the other end.
“We’re gonna film that…there’s a rear projector, when you come in you’ll see a profile of a guy opening the door…you see the gun go off and you see his head explode by digital FX. As you turn the corner you get to see the aftermath of that.”
After walking through the furnace scene, where Obi is screaming to get out, the group is led to the ice-cold freezer scene.
“[This is] the freezer trap,” he explains, “you have a girl, naked, chained up, strategically covered in ice. In this scene you have Jeff, who encounters this poor girl and she’s chained up and has an array of water nozzles around her constantly going off. She’s freezing and unfreezing… Jeff’s gonna bust through the scene, he’s the scare. Remember he gets his face stuck to the pipe and rips off half his face? Another thing we do is physically affect you with temperature. We’re actually going to have grates cut into this wall and pumping in freezing cold air into this room.”
On the way into the water trap room, Pig Man run in and kidnaps a girl from the group, who will make an appearance later. “Pig Man has abducted a young female [kicking and screaming] from the group.” This leads to the watertrap.
“This is the waterbox trap, with Detective Strahm. You’re gonna see the big huge water bottles. The water is actually above his mouth bubbling away. He’s the set up and the scare is actually coming from behind you, and that’s Pig Man.” He explains that they have some help with the illusion of Strahm being drown, as he needs to stay submerged for the entire night.
As we walk to the next room, Murdy points out, “This is where the girl ends up.” After being abducted from the group, she’s transported into a chamber loaded with needles, which should bring back some great Shawnee Smith (Amanda) memories. But the most memorable Amanda moment would be the bear trap, which makes an appearance in one of the final rooms.
“This is the reverse bear trap. Again, you have to pick what part of sequence you want to see. If you remember in the movie poor Shawnee find herself in this bear trap and she has to get the key, which she thinks is in her death cellmate. Right before she takes the scalpel to him, he wakes up. That’s the scene we wanna do – with the bear trap, digging in his chest cavity, pulling intestines out, blood spraying all over people!”
In the final room you’ll find Cecil in the infamous knife chair, while Jigsaw’s autopsy awaits.
“Poor Cecil sitting in the chair, he has to push his face through the knifes to get out of the trap. We’re actually designing a prosthetic for this actor so the knives aren’t touching his face,” he explains. “Then there is a Pig Man hidden in this room as well.” But of course!
“We really liked the Jigsaw autopsy scene. And we invested [in] this make-up effect where you can peel a persons face off,” a scene used in last year’s TEXAS CHAINSAW maze. `We’re actually gonna have Jigsaw on the table, where you’re actually seeing [a] bone saw, ripping his face off. Jeff is the scare with the concrete cutter…we just couldn’t let go of the face peeler.” he xplains the process of making the face peel FX. “The way we do it is it’s a skin face prosthetic and there’s another prosthetic that goes over it and has about 20 tiny magnets on the rim of it so they can literally take a piece of it and [tear sound}] peel his face off right in front of you… and of course you’re covered in blood.”
Then the final, final scare brings Billy back into the mix. “‘We want you to let your guard down, that’s when you’re the most vulnerable,” he explains about why they do a final, final scare. “As you exit Jigsaw’s lair there’s a dumpster and mannequin parts and Billy is back on top of the dumpster doing Billy’s trademark laugh going `game over, game over, game over.’ One last Pig Man hits you from that door and sends you on your way. That’s SAW: GAME OVER.”
But that’s just the beginning as you’ll also be able to hit up mazes for the HALLOWEEN franchise and even Universal’s forthcoming THE WOLFMAN remake! Get ready for Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, one of the best Halloween attractions around!