Since its humble launch in 2004 as a small, independent horror with a shoestring budget, Saw has grown into a cult phenomenon, spawning a series of movies that has grossed over $200 million domestically and scored killer DVD sales. The twisted crime thriller franchise originally shopped around Hollywood by filmmaking duo James Wan and Leigh Whannell is now poised for its fourth installment in as many years, and fan speculation on plot details are as rampant as they were with the previous sequels--it's part of the fun, and part of the community that has been born out of the mythology that is the world of Saw.
We had the opportunity to join a small group of media outlets to interview Saw IV director Darren Lynn Bousman and franchise star Tobin Bell some four months before the film's release, and the two are delighted by the impact these horror flicks have had on audiences. Bell continues to tell stories about younger viewers focusing more on the films' philosophical musings than the frequently gruesome torture scenes, while Bousman revels in the wild theories that have littered the internet about the new movie's story.
Wasn't Jigsaw dead by the end of Saw III? Does Amanda make some sort of miraculous return? What on earth is Saw IV even about? Of course, the two were keeping things tightly under wraps (although Bousman does seem to actually answer one of these three questions definitively in a brief exclusive we did with him).
Laughing at various ideas that have been thrown out in cyberspace, Bousman did talk about one thing that fans can look forward to in the fourth installment: "the twist." And while he naturally didn't give it away, he did say that he didn't see it coming, and that it was a major factor in his decision to return to the Saw helm for a third time, a job he was actually ready to turn down before getting through the script penned by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (the writers of Project Greenlight's Feast). Saw IV promises to tie up some loose ends and reference clues that were dropped in the previous films.
Bousman also brought up an interesting point regarding Saw's constant comparisons to Hostel. Eli Roth's sequel about travelers being snuffed out by sadistic rich folk recently debuted to lukewarm reviews and an even colder box office, prompting the media to wonder if the lifespan of horror movies with graphic torture has come to an end. When asked if Saw IV should worry about the underperformance of Hostel: Part II, Bousman said that he believes they're past that stage, and that Saw has already proven itself to audiences. And clearly, he's right. The franchise is no stranger to sequels. Saw II and Saw III have already posted strong numbers and demonstrated that the series is not just about brutal death scene after brutal death scene--the Saw films still try to deliver surprises, intricate storylines, and compelling characters.
Will the annual tradition of a new Saw movie each Halloween season extend to 2008? Time, and box office haul, will tell. But for the moment, it at least seems like fans are in for a treat this year, even if they can't be certain what that treat will entail.
Saw IV opens in theaters everywhere October 26. Stay tuned for more coverage and interviews as the release approaches.