Jigsaw – the newest entry in the most successful long-running horror franchise of all time

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Jigsaw’s legacy imbues every scene with a mixture of awe, confusion, and terror.

The Saw franchise has been a shiver-inducing, thought-provoking global powerhouse and redefined fright night at the movies with a unique blend of fear, mystery, deviousness and gore. Now the screws have been further tightened with Jigsaw, the newest entry in a series that The Guinness Book of World Records named as the most successful long-running horror franchise of all time.

Thirteen years after Saw made its auspicious debut at the Sundance Film Festival in the “Park City at Midnight” program, combining a moral weight with clever plotting, all-encompassing dread, and nerve-jangling tension that pivots into full-on panic, Jigsaw ups the stakes with an all-new puzzle built around a terrifying question: who’s behind a string of new Jigsaw-like killings if John Kramer has been dead for over a decade?

From Oren Koules, Mark Burg, and Gregg Hoffman – the producing team behind the Saw franchise, Jigsaw is directed by The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael). The screenplay is based on characters created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The Jigsaw screenplay is written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger. Daniel Jason Heffner, Peter Block, Jason Constantine, James Wan, Leigh Whannell, and Stacey Testro serve as executive producers.

An original idea developed in Melbourne, Australia, co-creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell kicked off with Saw in 2004, it follow the mad machinations of Jigsaw, a terminally ill cancer patient whose rigorous views on sin and redemption inspired him to create grim survival scenarios for lives he feels are unexamined.

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James Wan and Leigh Whannel

To date, the seven films of the franchise have grossed $874 million in the worldwide theatrical box office and created one of the most influential horror villains of all time.

Playing A New Game

In developing Jigsaw, producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg, the team behind every Saw film so far, wanted to treat fans to a movie that honored the first movie’s runaway success: an elaborate construction punctuated by heart racing jolts and intense emotion. To that end, taking a few years since Saw 3D – breaking the cycle of a new Saw movie a year for seven straight years, a franchise record in the modern era – served their purpose. “We didn’t have to rush,” says Koules, who heard a tantalizing premise from screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger and worked with them to realize a screenplay that ratchets up the suspense and invention to a whole new level. “We really got to develop a script, hire great directors, a great cinematographer, and I think everyone’s in for a fun ride.”

JIGSAW 4 Josh Stolberg

Josh Stolberg

With feature writing credits that include Good Luck Chuck, Evan Almighty, Piranha 3D, and Sorority Row, Josh Stolberg has a solid foot in both the comedy and horror genres.
As a director, his debut feature, Conception, won Best of the Fest Award at the Palm Beach Film Festival in 2012. He also directed horror/thriller Crawlspace for Vuguru in 2013, and the spoof movie The Hungover Games in 2014, once again demonstrating his unique knack for crossing genres.
Josh made the jump to television in 2015, writing pilots for the CW and CBS Television Studios, including an adaptation of Clive Barker’s book, Weaveworld. He’s currently adapting a second Clive Barker project, Nightbreed, into a limited series.
Josh continues to prove himself a versatile wordsmith, publishing his first novel, the psychological thriller Incarnate, in 2017. He lives in Los Angeles with his family, and in his spare time enjoys photography.

JIGSAW 5 Pete Goldfinger

Pete Goldfinger

Pete Goldfinger is best known for writing the feature films Sorority Row and Piranha 3D, but has also contributed to multiple TV Shows including the pilot episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He has also written multiple TV Show for many networks including CBS, CW and ABC Family.
Pete Goldfinger lives in Los Angeles with his family where he also works with young writers; many of whom have gone on to sell TV shows and feature films.

 

It’s no surprise that one of the big components to the Saw franchise is finding the right director.

The original film, after all, launched James Wan as one of the pre-eminent fright filmmakers in Hollywood. For Jigsaw, the producers turned to the gifted Australian sibling team Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers, Predestination), directors with an established track record for mind-bending thrills and otherworldly terror who could bring something different to a series already seven-films-strong.

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Australian sibling team Michael and Peter Spierig

Identical twin brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, known together professionally as the Spierig Brothers, are German-born Australian film Directors, Producers and Writers.
Peter and Michael created their first film, Undead (2003), a low-budget zombie horror-comedy, after pooling together their life savings. Undead screened at 17 film festivals, including Edinburgh, Montreal, Toronto, Sitges, Berlin, Amsterdam and Puchon. At the Melbourne International Film Festival, the International Federation of Film Critics awarded UNDEAD the prestigious Fipresci Award. The film was sold to 41 countries, and was released in the US and Canada by Lionsgate Entertainment, who developed a close relationship with Peter and Michael, and backed their second production Daybreakers.
The Spierig Brothers’ second feature film, the vampire thriller Daybreakers (2010), starred three-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Vince Colosimo, Michael Dorman and Isabel Lucas. The film was released in the United States on 2,500 screens, and has gone on to gross more than $65 million worldwide.
The Spierig Brothers’ third film was the action sci-fi thriller Predestination (2015), based on the classic sci-fi short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein. The film starred Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor. Predestination was nominated for nine AACTA awards (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards) and won four, including Best Actress for Sarah Snook. The brothers also won the prestigious John Hinde Award for Best Science Fiction Screenwriting in 2014, and at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival won a Special Award for Best Sci-Fi Film and Best Screenplay.
The Spierig Brothers are currently working on the horror film Winchester which tells the true story of Sarah Winchester, the millionaire heiress to the Winchester Arms fortune who was convinced that she, and her family, were haunted by the souls killed by the infamous rifle. Starring Dame Helen Mirren and Australia’s Jason Clarke, Winchester will be released theatrically worldwide in February 2018.

“When you have a series of films as inventive and memorable as the Saw movies are, you’re looking for talent behind the camera that matches that invention and results in a fresh experience for moviegoers,” says Producer Mark Burg.

“We knew we had that with Michael and Peter, who delivered on all counts.”

“They have a very unique style,” says Koules. “They very much wanted to jump into the Saw world and at the same time make it their own.”

Peter Spierig says the appeal of tackling a fresh installment in a beloved series was heightening the elements that work, but in new ways. “Our goal was to go back to the thriller aspects of the franchise. The best versions of Saw are when it’s a thriller, and it’s about the twists and turns, and the excitement of figuring out whodunit. That’s the stuff we love.

Michael Spierig adds that it was also imperative to honor the twisted construct of John Kramer’s legacy as a killer who gives his victims the ultimate choice. “It’s the idea that he creates the kind of confessional environment for everybody to atone for their sins,” says Michael. “It’s an interesting dynamic for a villain, and that’s fun to play with. There’s some really interesting moral dilemmas in these films.”

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The Jigsaw Legacy

Producer Oren Koules describes the character of Jigsaw as memorable because “he’s not a slasher. He doesn’t run around through forests, he’s not getting a girl in the shower. He’s actually a real thinker. He’s an engineer. When you talk about Jigsaw, about John Kramer, is he the protagonist? Is he the antagonist? Is he the hero or the villain?

James Wan and Leigh Whannell created a character who is iconic because he’s a thinking man’s villain.”

The series has distinguished itself over the years by refusing to be that horror franchise that settles for less when it comes to keeping it alive, and it’s rooted in the mysteries of Jigsaw, who preaches an ideal of appreciating life and savoring every moment, at the same time he deals in fear and terror.

James Wan himself may have put it most succinctly when he said, “Jigsaw’s intentions are good, but his methods are not.”

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Toby Bell

The Saw films are also notable for the way their central malevolent force, so richly embodied by Bell’s gravely intoned performance, has existed as both a flesh-and-blood person and an off-camera manipulator through his voice, his games, and the intricately designed, clockwork traps that are their own works of art. Kramer’s death in Saw III certainly didn’t put an end to the murders – accomplices and disciples abound – and it’s given the franchise a singular aura of beyond-the-grave menace. Jigsaw is no exception: Kramer’s legacy imbues every scene with a mixture of awe, confusion, and terror.

 

 

Jigsaw Parts

For Matt Passmore, who was cast in Jigsaw as medical examiner Logan, an ex-military, former POW dealing with an unusual new killing spree, acting in a Saw film requires honoring that legacy. “It was very important for us all to pay homage to the Saws that have gone before,” says Passmore. “But also to be moving on with a whole new lease on life. There’s a chronology of history that’s happened with John Kramer that we have to be aware of when we talk about, is John Kramer dead? We’re very aware of John Kramer’s past, but this film is an extension of the Saws that we’ve had before.”

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Matt Passmore

Though there’s an investigation being run by Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), Logan and his assistant Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) begin solving Jigsaw’s puzzle themselves, hoping to stop a new game from claiming more victims. Passmore says it’s that tense buildup that makes Jigsaw – and all the Saw movies – unique in the horror canon.

“What Saw really does well is it’s all about anticipation,” says Passmore. “It puts everyone on a time clock. Logan and Eleanor and Halloran are racing against time. Will they make it? Will they get out of this alive? That’s what makes a good horror film to me, it’s more about the survival than the death.”

Laura Vandervoort, cast in Jigsaw as Anna, a young mother who finds herself in the direst of situations, says the chance to be in a Saw film was like a fan getting asked to participate. “I’ve always loved horror movies and thrillers,” says Vandervoort. “It’s something all of my girlfriends and I do, we get together and watch horror movies, Hitchcock, everything. This was one of my favorite franchises, so when I heard they were going to do Jigsaw, I wanted to jump in head first.”

JIGSAW 6 Laura Vandervoort

Laura Vandervoort

Though getting cast in a Saw film gives an actor a juicy part to play, the nature of a Saw production means that that actor may not know everything in advance. (The protectiveness means scripts are given fake names. In this instance, drafts of Jigsaw were sent around under the cheeky title Party Invite.)

Says Producer Oren Koules, “When we send them out to actors, we don’t necessarily provide them with the entire script. They may just get their character piece. They may just get the first eighty pages. We almost never give anybody the ending. Those are surprises that if they got out, it would ruin the movie experience. So sometimes we have actors show up and they’re like, ‘Do I survive? Am I a good guy? Am I a bad guy?’ Which is kind of the fun of it.”

The Game So Far

SAWSaw (2004)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Story by: James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) are chained to opposite ends of a disused bathroom, introducing moviegoers worldwide to the cruel games of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), a killer with a grand, grim notion of morality and survival.

SAW 2Saw II (2005)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by: Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman
In an elaborate game played on Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), the mortally ill, captured Jigsaw reveals a backstory in which a suicide attempt spurred his reign of terror, which eventually came to include using drug addict Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) as John Kramer’s accomplice.

SAW 3Saw III (2006)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay by: Leigh Whannell
Story by Leigh Whannell and James Wan
A grieving father and a kidnapped ER doctor are central to a Jigsaw scheme that eventually exposes Amanda Young as a less-than-worthy Jigsaw accomplice, and leads to Jigsaw’s own death.

SAW 4Saw IV (2007)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Story by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton
As Detective Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is put through his paces for Jigsaw’s benefit, it’s revealed that central to John Kramer’s history is the miscarriage his wife Jill (Betsy Russell) suffered. In Rigg’s final test, Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is exposed as a Jigsaw accomplice.

SAW 5Saw V (2008)
Directed by: David Hackl
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) escapes one trap, only to become obsessed with Jigsaw, and the possibility that Hoffman is involved with the killings. After the two square off, Hoffman survives.

Saw 6Saw VI (2009)
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Detective Hoffman, continuing Jigsaw’s legacy, targets an insurance executive involved in denying experimental treatment for John Kramer’s cancer. In trying to shield his crimes, though, he kills his department colleagues, and makes enemies of John’s widow Jill.

saw3DSaw 3D (2010)
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Written by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
As a self-help guru gets tested after faking his connection to Jigsaw’s traps, Hoffman and Jill each try to incriminate the other in their private war. After Hoffman succeeds in killing Jill, however, he becomes the next victim, when Dr. Lawrence Gordon reappears to reveal that the dying Jigsaw had entrusted him to protect his widow, and mete out punishment if anything should happen to her.

 

 

 

Blood Drive

The Saw blood drive has been a tradition since the first Saw movie became a record-breaking franchise in 2004.

Jigsaw_2017_posterPast campaigns rolled out by Lionsgate have showcased vintage nurses as the blood drive ambassadors. Public support has been overwhelming, leading to incredible participation and real lives saved.

Since the drive’s commencement, an estimated 120,000 pints of blood have been donated through the American Red Cross which led to an estimated 360,000 lives saved.

This year, Jigsaw is bringing back the blood drive and the nurses are eight social media influencers including Amanda Lepore, Mykie and Shaun Ross. The drive kicked off on October 5th in New York before expanding to 25 cities across the country. Participants can donate blood at any mobile JIGSAW blood drive and receive a free ticket to see JIGSAW in theaters October 27, courtesy of Lionsgate and Atom Tickets. More information can be found at www.jigsawsaves.com.