By 2004 the horror genre was in transition. The teen-slasher craze of the late 90’s was all but a distant memory and America’s newest genre fixation, J-horror, was gasping its last breath. Hollywood needed something fresh to frighten the masses and cyphon the cash from their wallets. Enter, two Australian filmmakers and a low budget indie that would launch one the most lucrative horror franchises in history – Saw. The original film garnered heavy praise from the horror community and big bucks at the box office, over $100 million off a $1.2 million budget. Six subsequent sequels followed each October after that through to 2010.
Now, seven years later, the Saw is back. With Jigsaw hitting theaters just in time for Halloween, we want to take a bloody slide down memory lane. From humble beginnings to the third dimension, buckle up for fun facts from each entry of the franchise.
- Creative partners James Wan and Leigh Whannell began brainstorming ideas after watching The Blair Witch Project. They were so inspired by what the filmmakers were able to accomplish with minimal funds, they figured they could pull off something similar.
- The idea for the “Jigsaw Killer” came about one day when Wan suffered from an extreme migraine. As he waited for his doctor to diagnosis him, he nervously wondered if he might have a brain tumor. This small seed of thought led to the creation of one of modern cinema’s most famous boogeymen.
- The style of the series has always been distinguished by quick cuts, grimy film stock, and a harsh color palette. That was not the initial intent. Wan wanted to style the film more in line with classic Hitchcockian thrillers, but due to budgetary restraints the “Saw style” was born and matched by each subsequent sequel (and countless knockoffs).
- The Saw theme that is featured heavily during the climactic moments of each film was originally composed as incidental music for the reveal that Zep Hindle was, in fact, a victim and not Jigsaw himself. This piece, entitled “Hello Zepp”, quickly became synonymous with the series.
- Saw came in at #3 in the opening weekend’s box office.
Saw II (2005)
- After the surprise box office success of the first film, Lionsgate wasted little time in preparing a sequel for release the following Halloween season. Unfortunately, Wan and Whannell were tied up prepping for their second feature together, Dead Silence, and were unavailable to spearhead Saw II.
- Darren Lynn Bousman had been shopping around his script The Desperate for some time. He was extremely close to getting it produced by a German production company when Saw producer Gregg Hoffman caught wind of the script and snapped it up for the series’s sequel.
- Bousman’s screenplay was rewritten by Whannell who helped mold it into the Saw universe. Apparently, Whannell retained all the characters and the various traps from the initial script.
- In what became a running theme, principal photography wrapped in late June of 2005, a mere 4 months before the film’s release date.
- Saw II opened #1 at the box office and went on to become the highest grossing Saw film in North America.
Saw III (2006)
- Again, Lionsgate wanted to rush production on a third installment. Wan, Whannell, and Bousman all initially declined to return for Saw III. However, after the unexpected death of Gregg Hoffman shortly after II’s release, the three decided to make the film in honor of the producer (the film is dedicated to his memory).
- A limited edition poster was made for charity that actually used some of Tobin Bell’s own blood mixed in with the printer ink.
- The budget jumped to $10 million.
- III is the highest grossing film internationally of the franchise.
Saw IV (2007)
- This was the first sequel not written by Leigh Whannell. Newcomers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (Feast, The Collector) stepped up to writing duties for the remainder of the series’ initial run.
- Bousman was again convinced to take his place in the director’s chair. He agreed under the stipulation that Lionsgate produce his next film, Repo! The Genetic Opera.
- The complex narrative of the Saw films rely heavily upon cutting back and forth between past and present. These scene transitions were handled 100% practically. For instance, a scene involving Betsy Russell’s Jill cuts from her in the hospital to her in the interrogation room all in one seamless shot. This was achieved by having the actress literally run from one set to the next as the camera panned around.
Saw V (2008)
- With Bousman moving on to direct Repo!, producers needed a new director to take the helm. David Hackl who served as production designer (plus master trap maker) for all the sequels had cut his teeth by directing 2nd Unit for the previous two entries. Saw V became his directorial debut.
- Initially, Danny Glover was approached to reprise his role from the first film in this installment but declined due to a scheduling conflict.
- Overall, many consider V to be a huge misstep in the franchise. It was the first sequel to miss the top spot at the box office and was the 2nd poorest reviewed. It sits at a 12% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes.
Saw VI (2009)
- Yet again, we have a new name taking the reigns on Saw VI, Kevin Greutert. He had served as editor on all the previous films.
- After principal photography, Lionsgate attempted to post convert the film to 3D much to Greutert’s chagrin. This idea was ultimately abandoned due to the incredibly short turnaround time.
- Prior to the film’s release, a 10 episode reality series called Scream Queens aired on VHI. It was hosted by Shawnee Smith and featured James Gunn as a judge. The winner, Tanedra Howard, won a “breakout role” in Saw VI. She played Simone, the girl who had to chop her arm off in the opening scene.
- VI became the first film to receive an “X” rating in Spain due to violence.
- General consensus was this entry was a vast improvement over the previous film. It actually has the highest critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, second only to the original.
- Following from the declining box office of Saw V, VI opened at #2. The film that came first that weekend was Paramount’s Paranormal Activity. There was a new Halloween Box Office King in town.
Saw: 3D (2010)
- After completing VI Greutert signed on to direct Paranormal Activity 2. Hackl was brought back onboard to direct the closing chapter, Saw 3D. At the last minute, two weeks before principal photography, Hackl was removed from the project and Greutert announced as the new director. Apparently, Lionsgate forced Greutert onto the project by exorcising a contractual clause.
- Dunstan and Melton have stated there were originally going to be a 7th and 8th installment to close out the series. Due to the declining box office of the last two films, Lionsgate changed their minds and had the writers combine their two film concept into one script.
- This was the largest budgeted Saw film at the time due to being shot in RealD 3D. The seventh film carries a hefty $17 million price tag.
- VHI aired a second season of Scream Queens, this time hosted by Jamie King with Tim Sullivan as a judge. The winner, Gabby West, has a minor role opposite the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.
- The opening trap revolving around two characters named Brad and Ryan was a nod to the editors of two popular online horror news websites. 😉
- Saw 3D remains the poorest reviewed entry so far. It sits at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.