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Saw 3D – Director Kevin Greutert talks about the challenges of helming the final chapter in the popular horror franchise

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Saw 3D - Director Kevin Greutert
Director Kevin Greutert on the set © 2010 Lionsgate

When it comes to the complex mythology of Saw and its myriad sequels, Kevin Greutert knows his way around the world of Jigsaw better than most people. Having edited the first five films before directing Saw VI, Greutert has been involved with the franchise from the beginning. And now he’s there for the end, directing Saw 3D, which finally brings the story of Jigsaw and his victims to a close.

During a recent interview, the director shared his thoughts on the Saw films in general, as well as the challenges of shooting that final installment in digital 3D…

Was the process of making this film different from the others, knowing it was going to be the final chapter?

Well sure, because we wanted to wrap a lot of the lingering questions and storylines that had been around. Rather than doing the trick of ending on a cliffhanger to force people to buy tickets next year, we went all-in with this one. That was very much part of the process from the beginning.

At what point in the process was the decision made to shoot it in 3D?

Saw 3D - Teaser Art 1 poster
Teaser Art 1 poster © 2010 Lionsgate

That was probably the first decision made on the film. I had actually hoped to make Saw VI in 3D but wasn’t able to make that work. By the time this film came along, there was enough infrastructure in terms of theaters that were equipped with 3D equipment to go forward with it.

How does it enhance the storyline?

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

Was it difficult to make the transition from editor to director on the last two films?

I always wanted to direct but I didn’t think that Saw would be my ticket when I cut the first one. Soon after that, I started positioning myself to get promoted and it took a while, but by the time it happened, I was in pretty good shape. I already knew and had rapport with the actors from having edited the other films, and I knew the crew well and had worked with them as a second unit director on Saw V so it wasn’t as giant a change as you would think.

Wouldn’t you say this series lends itself to your talents, because they’re so complex?

For sure. The films have always been very editing-intensive and I think knowing the films inside and out it helped a lot. When I was on the stage, you would be surprised by how many little micro-decisions have to be made on the spot. Is someone wearing a wedding ring? Would there be blood on this side of their face? I would literally have to think back: that happened in Saw II, and there must have been about three weeks in-between. Those issues are very common on the set, so it helped a lot having cut the films.

Can you talk about bringing Cary Elwes back for this film?

It was a very pleasant surprise to find out that we finally got Cary back into the franchise. It was something we wanted and needed to do for a really long time and I’m very glad that it happened. It was… everything I want to say is laden with spoilers, so all I can say is it was very fun to hear his voice booming across the set.

How much attention do you actually pay to fan feedback?

The fans have a lot of impact on the series, whether they know it or not. We pay a lot of attention to what we read on the various websites where people are talking about Saw, so we get a good sense of what is and isn’t working. Nothing gets past the fans. If there’s a flaw, we hear about it big time.

How do you feel about the term ‘torture porn’ being applied to the Saw films?

Well, torture is involved in this film, but porn? I don’t know. I don’t really like the phrase, at least as it applies to Saw. To me, it cheapens what it is, which is a psychological thriller. If it was just one scene after another of people getting tortured with no story through-line, then sure, but it’s not that and everybody knows that. In my opinion, the only people who call it that are people who haven’t watched a Saw film.

Is it important to you that these films have a social conscience?

I think it enriches it a lot if it feels like it’s something that’s today. We might have gone too far with Saw VI by having the health care angle, but it’s the God’s honest truth that when [writers] Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton came up with that idea, it was long before it was a political issue in a big way and frankly Obama wasn’t talking about it in the lead-up to the election, which was just a few days after the movie came out.

As soon as the movie came out, bang, health care was all over the news and it made it seem like we were whoring with it, but really, it just suited the character to be a crooked insurance dude. That was more a coincidence than us trying to make some kind of policy statement, which we absolutely were not.

What sets your film apart from other 3D horror films coming out this season?

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 shooting in 3D makes all the difference in the world. It just looks that much better.

This film 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 hand-held and keeping the camera moving around a lot and being very dynamic. Because the technology is advancing so quickly, we were able to take advantage of all aspects of that.

Saw 3D will be released on October 29, 2010