ABOUT THE SAW FRANCHISE
"What the fuck is going on? Where am I?"
Those words, uttered two minutes into 2004's SAW, express the primal emotions - the hopeless confusion, the awful sense of powerlessness and sheer, panic-stricken terror - that lie at the heart of Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures' SAW franchise; emotions that are a key to its phenomenal success. The SAW films follow the machinations of Jigsaw, a terminally ill cancer patient with an exacting moral agenda and a genius for gruesome games of survival, "played" with those he believes have ceased to value and appreciate the gift of life. Ratcheting up tension and invention with each successive film, the SAW franchise has touched a chord while jangling millions of nerves worldwide. It has picked up the baton from classic horror series such as HALLOWEEN and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET to become a cultural touchstone, as well as the most profitable horror franchise, both theatrically and on DVD, in movie history. To date, the four SAW titles have taken in over $553 million in worldwide theatrical box office and their combined net DVD sales exceed 24 million units. The franchise has helped make Lionsgate the leading studio for horror today, with #1 rankings in box office and DVD consumer spending.
SAW made its world premiere at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Festival's popular "Park City at Midnight" program. Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore, who programs the annual event, recalls that he was impressed by the first-time filmmakers' command of both form and theme. "SAW grabbed the viewer from the first frame; it was bold, cleverly constructed and flat-out terrifying," he comments. "But what really set SAW apart was its moral seriousness. This movie didn't just want to scare you, it wanted to make you think about what you would do to stay alive. In today's world, that is not a trivial thing to contemplate -- either as an individual or as a member of society."
As the SAW series has continued, the films have tunneled further into Jigsaw's beliefs and worldview. Says Leigh Whannell, who created the original story with director James Wan and wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for SAW, SAW II and SAW III, "Jigsaw's cancer has led him to think very hard about what it means to be alive and how close we are to death at any given time. But he's not someone who stops with a simple 'carpe diem' and a trip to Europe. The concept of life's value becomes a springboard to look at other personal moral choices, like forgiveness versus retribution. Jigsaw keeps digging into these issues, which become grist for his games. And as twisted as the games are, his intention is to help people. Between his philosophical bent and his sick take on altruism, I like to think Jigsaw is somewhat unique in the horror universe."
The SAW franchise has been part of a wave of horror films that have drawn favorable comparisons to the independent horror cinema of the 1970s, a connection highlighted in a Summer 2007 series at New York's Museum of the Moving Image, entitled "It's Only a Movie: Horror Films from the 1970s and Today." The six-weekend retrospective drew a thru-line between films like Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), which shocked audiences of their day with envelope-pushing gore and disturbing explorations of human behavior; and the films of the SAW age, including Darren Lynn Bousman's SAW II, which contain images and stories that have left today's viewers just as stunned and terrified -- and eager for more -- as the moviegoers of the 1970s. "It's Only a Movie" presented double features that paired films from each era, with SAW II sharing a bill with Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
Announcing the series in June 2007, the Museum's Chief Curator, David Schwartz said, "These movies are of considerable aesthetic and cultural interest, clearly reflecting the fears of contemporary lives…. Of course we are aware that these films contain disturbing, often shocking images, but they are powerful precisely because they tap into our deepest anxieties."
Assistant Curator Livia Bloom also weighed in. "The filmmakers in this series use the horror genre as a commercial framework to make smart, often subversive films. Their work examines deep psychological concerns, and comments on social and political issues of the day." Bloom noted that in SAW's "startling scenes of torture," she found "reflections of a life during a time of war and turmoil."
The thematic and stylistic consistency of the SAW series owes much to the stewardship and participation of a core team, including SAW originators James Wan and Leigh Whannell; writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman, who joined the team with SAW II; producers Oren Koules, Mark Burg and the late Gregg Hoffman; and executive producers Stacey Testro, Peter Block and Jason Constantine. The key creative team has been with the series from the start, and includes director of photography David A. Armstrong; production designer, and current director David Hackl; editor Kevin Greutert; and composer Charlie Clouser, a onetime member of the band Nine Inch Nails.
Another critical member of the SAW team is actor Tobin Bell, who has portrayed Jigsaw throughout the franchise. In his September 7, 2007 essay on contemporary horror movies in the L.A. Weekly, critic Luke Thomson wrote, "Tobin Bell's performance as Jigsaw is a wonder; he's the best 'real-world' horror antihero since Anthony Hopkins first played Hannibal Lecter."
As intricate as one of Jigsaw's games, the SAW films reveal their twisting plots gradually. The series itself resembles an even larger jigsaw puzzle, with each new film linking up in some way with its predecessor. With SAW V arriving in theatres for Halloween 2008, let's take a look at the pieces thus far. To paraphrase Jigsaw's victims: where are we?
The SAW franchise is not only about big-screen blood; it also about the blood that saves lives. With the release of the first SAW in 2004, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures embarked on a cutting-edge promotion tailored specifically to the franchise's profile: a nationwide SAW blood drive that exhorts fans to "Give Til It Hurts" to benefit the Red Cross. The SAW "Give Til It Hurts" Blood Drive has become a key element of the SAW franchise, as much a part of its annual rituals as the Halloween premiere date. Each year brings a new ad campaign photographed by Tim Palen, Lionsgate Co-President of Theatrical Marketing and fine art photographer, and featuring the SAW nurses, seductive angels of questionable mercy and considerable visual impact. In the first four years of the blood drive, SAW filmgoers donated nearly 80,000 pints of blood to help save as many as 238,000 lives.
For the 2007 drive, the SAW "Give Til It Hurts" Blood Drive acquired two important new partners, the American Red Cross and Yahoo!, to help make the campaign bigger, better and more bloodily ambitious than ever. Lionsgate and the American Red Cross entered into their first formal partnership to administer the SAW IV Blood Drive on a nationwide basis. The national organization teamed with local Red Cross chapters to set up donation centers, a commitment that more than quadrupled the number of centers, from 250 to 1200. SAW star Tobin Bell was featured in several PSA's advertising the event.
Meanwhile, Yahoo! provided massive online support for the SAW IV Blood Drive as Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures' key online partner. In addition to providing hundreds of millions of impressions across Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Mail, and Yahoo Movies, Yahoo! also hosted the Blood Drive website. By searching for "Saw Blood Drive" on Yahoo!, users were able to access the SAW IV Blood Drive website, which featured a branded, interactive Yahoo! Map that allowed users to find the closest Blood Drive to their geographic location. In addition to the interactive map, users could watch the Blood Drive PSA with Tobin Bell, grab branded downloads, and tell a friend about the Blood Drive.
Both the Red Cross and Yahoo! reteam with Lionsgate for the 2008 blood drive effort.
The SAW V Blood Drives are taking place at college campuses and other locations across the country. Field drives began the week of September 26, 2008 and Red Cross blood drives began the week of September 23rd. The SAW V Blood Drive will continue through the first week of the film's release.
The SAW IV blood drive gathered 41,784 pints, over 3000 pints more than the previous three years combined and saving approximately 125,350 lives. Collection totals from the SAW blood drives have doubled year after year: during the 2004 inaugural drive, 4,200 pints were collected, in 2005, 10,000 pints were collected, and in 2006, 23,493 pints were collected, resulting in tens of thousands of lifesaving blood transfusions.
Director: David Hackl Screenplay: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
In the fifth installment of the SAW franchise, Hoffman is seemingly the last person alive to carry on the Jigsaw legacy. But when his secret is threatened, Hoffman must go on the hunt to eliminate all loose ends.
Director David Hackl, who served at production designer on the first four SAW film, takes the helm in what promises to be a revelatory new installment in the franchise. "SAW V is going to answer a lot of questions for fans," says the director. "It's a story-driven SAW film, much like the first one, with some fine twists and turns. And the traps are more large scale because they involve more people. Fans can count on the same visceral, gut-wrenching, horrific traps that Jigsaw has always created, but taken to a whole new level."
Opening on October 24, 2008, SAW V is on track to achieve another record-breaking feat: becoming the highest-grossing horror franchise ever in terms of domestic box office. With a cumulative domestic box office of $285.7 million for SAW I - IV, the franchise is well within range of the totals amassed by the 11-picture FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise ($317.8 million) as well as the 8-picture NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. franchise ($307.4 million).
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DAVID HACKL (Director) is a Toronto-based Feature Film Director, Commercial Director and Production Designer. David began his film career in 1986 working as an Art Director on countless music videos and commercials at many of Toronto's busiest commercial and music video houses. In 1989 he made the leap to commercial director at Toronto's LTB Films with clients including Kellogg, Sanyo, Anheuser Busch, Jeep, Sears, Tiger Toys and General Mills. In 1993 David got his first taste of long format filmmaking when he agreed to Art Direct the television movie "Mary Silliman's War", an American Revolution period film shot on location in Nova Scotia, Canada. David continued to direct commercials until 1996 he made the move to production designing when Actor /Director Saul Rubinek approached him to work on his debut feature JERRY AND TOM starring Joe Mantegna and Sam Rockwell. This was a turning point for David. His focus shifted away from commercial directing and move towards long format as a production designer with the hope of one day directing feature films. David quickly became one of Canada's busiest production designers, working in both features and television for the next 8 years. David Hackl's other production design credits include Sci-Fi Channel series "LEXX - The Dark Zone" seasons 1, 2 and 3 and "Starhunter;" the independent features CLUBLAND for Paramount directed by Saul Rubinek starring Steven Webber and Alan Alda; the television films "Zebra Lounge" starring Stephen Baldwin; "Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story" starring Jamie Foxx; Koch Company's THE RIVER MAN starring Cary Elwes; and the 2003 FOX miniseries "The Grid." Over the past twenty years David has worked extensively in Canada and the United States, Europe, The UK, Africa and South America. In 2005 David was asked to production design the feature film SAW II and worked very close with Director Darren Lynn Bousman to bring to life the dark world of "Jigsaw" for Evolution Entertainment/Twisted Pictures and distributor Lionsgate. Following SAW II, David finished 2005 designing the Werewolf update SKINWALKERS with producer Don Carmody and director Jim Isaac for Germany's Constantin Film Produktion. In January 2006 Hackl and Bousman reunited for SAW III which David not only production designed but second unit directed as well. David returned to Nova Scotia in June, 2006 to production design the epic Viking/Alien feature OUTLANDER starring James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Ron Perlman and John Hurt for producers Don Carmody, Ascendent Pictures and distributors The Weinstein Company. David joined the SAW team for a third time in 2007 as production designer and second unit director on SAW IV and immediately followed with Darren Lynn Bousman's futuristic rock opera REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA again as both production designer and second unit director. In 2008 David Hackl finally got his wish with his directorial debut on "SAW V" which opened October 24th in second place and pulled in a weekend box office draw of $30.5 million. This makes SAW the highest grossing horror franchise in history. beating out former frontrunner FRIDAY THE 13th.
PATRICK MELTON (Screenwriter) hails from Evanston, Illinois and attended the University of Iowa where he met his writing partner, Marcus Dunstan. After moving to Los Angeles and working for various film companies, Patrick attended Loyola Marymount University where he received his MFA in Screenwriting. In 2004, Patrick won the filmmaking contest Project Greenlight for the script he co-wrote with Marcus Dunstan titled FEAST. Since then, Patrick and Marcus have become household names in the horror genre with such films as SAW IV, FEAST II & III, the upcoming HELLRAISER remake, Marcus's directorial debut from their script THE MIDNIGHT MAN and, of course, SAW V.
MARCUS DUNSTAN (Screenwriter) hails from Macomb, Il and attended the University of Iowa where he met his writing partner, Patrick Melton. After moving to North Hollywood in January of 1999, Marcus attempted to stay in shape by jogging in a nearby park. He found a gun in that park, ran back to his apartment and shortly thereafter gained 50 pounds. Odd job after odd job followed as Mr. Dunstan watched his youth dim under the mocking gaze of his Communications Degree. A fateful call from Patrick Melton began with "what if we took a shot at writing a horror film?" That script became FEAST, which was selected by Project Greenlight and released by Dimension Films. The success of FEAST led to the creation of two sequels that so offended one viewer, Dunstan was asked not to reproduce. Last year, Marcus co-wrote SAW IV with Patrick Melton, during which time, Dunstan, fearing kidney stones, endured an ultrasound only to discover that his jeans were so friggin' tight they had pinched a nerve under his ribcage. With shame at an all time high, Dunstan directed his first feature film, THE MIDNIGHT MAN, which was based once again, on a script co-written by Marcus and his college bud, Patrick Melton. Dunstan has since been grateful and still has about 35 pounds to lose.
THE ART OF SEQUELS
READ MORE ABOUT SAW
READ AN INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH WHANNELL
READ MORE ABOUT SAW II
READ MORE ABOUT SAW III
READ MORE ABOUT SAW VI