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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A buncha movie stuff….

When in doubt, lead with Disney, even if you’re not sure what the story actually means….

* Mark Zoradi, the Big D’s head of worldwide marketing and distribution for movies, is stepping down. This surely has something to do with the arrival of Rich Ross and the departure of Dick Cook some weeks back.

* As per Company Town, Lions Gate is doing better right now from TV than movies. Could “Mad Men” have been their biggest money maker the last quarter? I’d like to think so.

* Self-appointed protector of Catholicism from the scourge of Hollywood Bill Donoghue has found a new source of “anti-Catholic bigotry” (i.e., not conforming 100% to his highly particular and extremely reactionary view of how all things Catholic should be treated in the media): “2012.” Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post mocks accordingly and appropriately.

Here’s a fascinating quote from idiot boy Donoghue on his life’s work:

Every time I say Hollywood hates Christianity, especially Catholicism, my critics cringe. But they never offer evidence that I’m wrong.

I’m not cringing and I’ve got evidence. Skipping around the decades and off the top of the my head: “Going My Way,” “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Lilies of the Field,” “The Trouble with Angels,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sister Act,” “Signs,” “Gran Torino,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “City of Angels,” “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies,” “Ben Hur,” “Shadowlands,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Shoes of the Fishermen,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “King of Kings,” “The Exorcist,” (who saves the day there?) and on and an on and on. In fact, it’s much easier to find a pro-Christian or Catholic Hollywood film than to find one that even features an openly Jewish, Islamic, or, heaven forfend, openly atheist or agnostic, character. Even the movies Donoghue attacks, like “Dogma” or “Saved” or most especially “The Last Temptation of Christ” are actually highly pro-Christian films, though espousing a more liberal version of the religion than he personally cares for. If there is a bigger idiot on this planet than Donoghue, I doubt he has the brain function enough to breathe. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he makes a new atheist.

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Happy Halloween from the year 1973

I can’t confirm that this trailer for William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist“, supposedly unreleased because it was too scary, is authentic — though it feels authentic. However, I can confirm that it’s extremely creepy, whoever put it together.


THE EXORCIST: Movie TrailerWatch today’s top amazing videos here

I’ve only seen “The Exorcist” once — yes, I’m a big cinema chicken who managed to wait until the 2000 re-release to see it. And, yes, when I did I suddenly had to go to the bathroom just before the spinal tap scene. But I don’t remember Mr. Devil Man in there at all. Anyhow, if any “Exorcist” mavens are reading, I’m wondering if maybe the other reason this trailer was “banned” by the studio is that it was actually kind of misleading and oversold the horror aspects. Better to create a sense of anticipation than blow things up too much in the trailer.

Certainly, the Warners marketing people did a good enough job. It was the first of a series of seventies and eighties megahits for which, before the era of the multiplex, audiences would wait literally hours to see. I’m old enough to remember being surprised by the crowds outside the recently torn down National Theater in L.A.’s Westwood Village. Here’s some of what was going on inside. If you think “Paranormal Activity” is creating a sensation, take a look.

  

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Bullz-Eye’s 15 Best Horror Movies Revisited

With Halloween just around the corner, TV networks will be airing a non-stop selection of horror movies throughout the week. So which ones should you watch? Well, you can always revisit Bullz-Eye’s list of the 15 Best Horror Movies to help you decide. It not only includes scary classics like “The Exorcist” and “Halloween,” but more nontraditional picks like “The Shining,” “Alien” and “Jaws.” After all, it doesn’t have to include bogeymen in October to scare the living daylights out of you.

Curiously, although horror movies are cranked out faster than a burger and fries at McDonalds these days, there haven’t been too many new entries in the genre that would truly deserve a place on the list. There are certainly a few that would be up for consideration, including the original “Saw,” Neil Marshall’s cave-diving thriller “The Descent,” and the Spanish horror film “[REC],” but it would be difficult to knock anything off. Less likely suggestions might include the horror comedy “Slither,” Eli Roth’s hate-it-or-love-it “Hostel,” and the Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In.” Of course, you could always get out of the house and see “Paranormal Activity” instead, because if our own horror-shy Bob Westal loved it (not to mention millions of other moviegoers), then chances are you will too.

  

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“Scary Mary” returns

So, I’m in the middle of working on my upcoming review of the appropriately hyped “Paranormal Activity” and thinking about just what makes scary movies scary.  I don’t know if anyone has better demonstrated some key aspects of this than Chris Rule did with his online classic, the brilliant 2006 recut trailer for “Mary Poppins,” turning a safe-as-houses family musical comedy/fantasy into a Anglo creepfest with a touch of “The Exorcist.”

Just a few judicious editing tricks, a talent for pacing, and a creepy soundtrack is all you need, it turns out.

  

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