Tag: Hammer horror

A Roundtable Chat with the Cast and Director of “Saw 3D”

In 2003, director James Wan and screenwriter Lee Whannell put together a short film featuring a man with a rusty metal “reverse beartrap” on his head and a creepy-looking puppet in hopes that someone would take a chance on this film script they’d written.

Someone did.

Eight years later, the “Saw” franchise is reportedly coming to a close, and although the history of the horror genre – specifically, the fourth “Friday the 13th” film – has taught us that no chapter is ever truly final, they’re at least trying to make us think they’re going out with a bang, eschewing a straightforward “Saw VII” and instead offering fans an additional dimension of gory fun with “Saw 3D.”

Although the studio is predictably taking a pass on providing press screenings for the film (since everyone knows it’s going to be critic-proof, anyway), director Kevin Greutert and a trio of actors from the cast – Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, and Betsy Russell – turned up at the New York Comic Con to do a series of roundtable interviews for members of the media.

The demand to chat with these folks were significant, as you might imagine, so in order to maximize our time while working with minimal space, both the interviewers and the interviewees were split into two groups, with the interviewees switching groups after 15 minutes.

First up, Costas Mandylor and Kevin Greutert…

Journalist: So there’s, like, a volcano eruption of 3D films out there now, with the whole “take that and run with it” Hollywood attitude. What sets this one apart from other 3D horror films?

Kevin Greutert: Well, for one thing, this film was actually shot in 3D. We didn’t do a post-conversion like a lot of the other movies that have come out lately. I think that shooting it in 3D makes all the difference in the world, so it just looks that much better. This was shot with state-of-the-art cameras that are a lot more lightweight than any previous 3D films, so we were able to preserve the “Saw” style of doing a lot of stuff handheld and keeping the camera moving around a lot and very dynamic. Because technology is advancing so quickly, we were able to just take advantage on all aspects.

Journalist: Has 3D changed the blocking of the set and what you’re actually doing in the film?

KG: Yeah, it affects the way we block the scene, because we want to maximize the feeling of depth in the image, even if it’s not an in-your-face moment where stuff’s flying into the camera. We still wanted it to look as rich and full of space as possible.

Journalist: At what point in the production process was the decision made that the film was going to be in 3D? Was that from the outset, or did that happen…

KG: It was decided…that was probably the very first decision made on the film, and I had actually hoped even before we made “Saw V” to direct “Saw VI” in 3D but wasn’t able to make that work. So by the time “Saw VII” came along, now there’s enough infrastructure in terms of theaters that are equipped with 3D equipment to go forward, and…yeah, no one ever thought twice about doing it in 3D.

Journalist: How does 3D enhance the storyline?

KG: Well, I don’t know how much it actually plays into the story. There’s a bit of self-reference in the opening scene of the movie, which is the first “Saw” scene that takes place in broad daylight, with a big crowd watching one of Jigsaw’s big contraptions at play. There’s, I think, a little bit of an implicit message about horror audiences watching voyeuristically. 3D, I think, just kind of takes that to another level.

Journalist: Costas, what keeps bringing you back to this franchise?

Costas Mandylor: You know what? In a way, luck. And the character seems to have worked. And, you know, when you collaborate with people like Kevin and a couple of the other guys before him, and you know what you’re doing together, it’s a comfortable situation where you don’t have to get really… (Hesitates) I mean, some guys in life are a pain in the ass, and they die. “Saw” does that really easy. I committed to it as best as I could, and spending time with Tobin (Bell) and seeing how committed he was to keeping a certain standard, not letting the fans down was really important to him, so it wasn’t just going to a gig, doing my thing, and leaving. I actually paid attention. There’s a great example of…when I first started, I think it was in “IV,” he had a great idea for a scene and he called me at, like, 11:30 at night. He goes… (Does a Tobin Bell growl) “Hey, Costas, are you awake?” Jigsaw’s calling me at midnight on the phone. I’m in trouble here. (Laughs) I went to see him…reluctantly…but we spent some time together, and the scene…that was a really long scene that we did, with the gun to the…? It just worked beautifully, because he put the effort in and forced me to be okay with putting in my ideas as well. So I’m still here ‘til the end of this one, and…we don’t even know the endings. But for now, I’m in.

KG: We have more control over Costas by not letting his character die. (Laughs) We hold that over his head every year.

Journalist: But that doesn’t keep Tobin from coming back!

KG: (Laughs) He has more screen time dead than he did alive!

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Have a Happy Halloween with “Hammer Glamour”

Are you one of those film buffs who believes that Hammer equals Horror? I’m almost a little embarrassed to admit it, but for the longest time, I didn’t know the first thing about Hammer Films, let alone their reputation amongst horror film aficionados. I was one of those kids who lived and died by the classic six-pack of Universal monster movies – “Dracula” (1931), “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933), “The Wolf Man” (1941), and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954) – and any and all of the sequels they inspired. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that I really got an education into the world of Hammer, courtesy of a set released, ironically, by Universal: “The Hammer Horror Series.” It’s part of Universal’s so-called “Franchise Collection,” and although it’s certainly not a comprehensive set, it does include several films which give you a feel for the Hammer style of horror, including “Brides of Dracula,” “Curse of the Werewolf,” their 1962 version of “Phantom of the Opera,” “Paranoiac,” “Kiss of the Vampire,” “Nightmare,” “Night Creatures,” and “Evil of Frankenstein.”

There’s something about Hammer, though, that would’ve brought me to their back catalog of films long ago if only I’d been aware of it: they were really, really good at combining their horror with incredibly hot women. And if you doubt this to be true, then may I assure you that there is ample evidence of this fact…emphasis on the ample…in “Hammer Glamour: Classic Images from the Archive of Hammer Films.” Given that scary movies were the studio’s stock and trade in their glory days, it’s probably not coincidental that Titan Books decided to wait until right around Halloween to release this glossy tome, but rest assured that the photos contained within – and on the cover, as you can see below – are the sort which can be appreciated all year round.

Author Marcus Hearn was given the opportunity to delve deep into the Hammer vaults, and, boy, did he make the most of it. “The deeper we dug in Hammer’s archive, and the other picture libraries we visited, the more hidden gems we uncovered,” he said, in an interview with Titan. “Glamour photography was one of the most important elements of any Hammer publicity campaign, so there was no shortage of pictures to choose from. Unfortunately, they hadn’t always been stored with the greatest care, so the extensive restoration was by far the most time-consuming part of assembling the book.”

The team of restorers did good work, to be certain, but so did Hearn, who interviewed as many of the Hammer actresses as possible and, beyond that, has compiled solid biographies for each. And even those of you who aren’t familiar with Hammer’s history will likely still recognize several of the names within the book, including Ursula Andress (“Dr. No”), Nastassja Kinski (“Tess,” “Cat People”), Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”), and Raquel Welch (“Fantastic Voyage,” “One Million Years B.C.,” and, of course, “Myra Breckinridge”).

Not only is “Hammer Glamour” great to look at, but odds are that it’ll leave you wanting to head to Netflix and check out the body of work that these women accumulated for the studio. And if part of the reason for doing so is because you want to check out their actual bodies in the process…well, I think they’d probably understand. After all, you don’t think they were wearing those bodices because they were comfortable, do you?

In closing, to whet your appetite and tempt you further into picking up the book (which you can do by clicking here), here’s an extremely well-done collection of clips of some of the studio’s stable of actresses…and set to Kate Bush’s “Hammer Horror,” no less:

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