Michael and Peter Spierig are certainly no strangers to horror. The Australian twins first two films, Undead and Daybreakers, gave a new twist to the zombie and vampire genres (respectively), while the third (Predestination) adapted a short story by beloved sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein. This time the talented directors try their hand at bringing the Saw franchise back to the big screen with Jigsaw. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Michael and Peter, about what it was like to sharpen those reverse bear traps once more, as they bring the Jigsaw Killer back.
What drew you to tackling the Saw franchise in the first place?
MS – We’ve known Leigh Whannell and James Wan for a long time and have been great fans of their work, and we’ve also done two pictures with Lionsgate, so we knew the Saw team quite well. So we got invited into the Lionsgate office because they had this secret script they wanted us to have a look at. We went in thinking it might be a Saw film, and we were a little hesitant because we’re up to the eighth film in the series. When we read the script we were really surprised. The script was compelling and clever, and an interesting mystery. So that was our decision made there.
Why do you think Saw, and the Jigsaw killer in particular, has had such resonance with horror fans?
PS – What we like about Jigsaw is he’s a guy that gives other people an opportunity to transform their lives. Whether you agree with his methods or not, you are talking about people that have either hurt other people or are lost, so he puts them in a situation, where if they do manage to escape it they see themselves or the world very differently. That’s an interesting concept for a bad guy. And the fact that he’s intelligent and methodical, and hasn’t specifically killed anybody (he’s put people in a situation that they can either live or die), it makes for a much more interesting killer than someone who’s running around with a butcher’s knife.
Those traps have become a trademark of the franchise, how was it finding new and interesting traps, and bringing them to the screen?
MS – There’s been a lot of traps, and it’s complicated coming up with new things. I think we’ve come up with some creative things. It was a collaborative effort (writers, producers, Peter and I, and the production designers) as to how we were going to do these things. It’s a mixed bag of some pretty elaborate, wild ideas and some really simple basic concepts as well. Audiences going in looking for some pretty wild traps will certainly get it with this film.
This is the first time you’ve directed a script that you didn’t write. How did you find the experience?
PS – With Predestination it was a short story we adapted, rather than a wholly original piece like our first two films. There is something great about coming into a script that is already fleshed out, and solid, and then you work with the writers and tweak it to what you want it to be. It is actually a really satisfying process. Our experience for the first time doing that was really great. It’s helpful that the writers were smart and got where we were coming from. Its a very long process starting with a blank page and coming up with an original idea. We’ve taken three-four years to come up with an idea (and bring it to screen).
Obviously this is not your first horror film, and you have another (Winchester) coming next year, what do you find so compelling about horror as a genre?
MS – Horror is an endlessly creative genre, and it often lends itself well to lower budgets. Horror can often have a lot of really interesting social commentary, as to who we are and where we are going, but it can also be a fun thrill ride. I think as a kid it was the genre I was always drawn to as it was endlessly thrilling and forbidden, it was often stuff I wasn’t allowed to be watching when l was young. I think as filmmakers, and I know this from the crew we work with to, when we hear we’re making a horror film everyone gets excited because there is so many possibilities. The cinematographer has a field day, the designers go nuts, the makeup people love it – it’s such a fun genre to play in!