Aussies to the rescue: The Spierig Brothers on revitalising the Saw franchise with Jigsaw

The latest instalment in the Saw franchise hits cinemas today – Jigsaw – which is being helmed by the Aussies who brought us the incredible Predestination (among others), The Spierig Brothers. The film currently sits with the best reviews since the original, which of course was directed by another Aussie, James Wan.

I caught up with the pair to chat about the film, and also find out more about their other project, Winchester, which is due out next year. Read on to find out if the music of John Farnham can be used as a torture element, and if the rise of Donald Trump and the current popularity of the horror genre have anything to do with one and other…

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. It’s a very exciting time for you guys; I imagine you’re excited for the release of Jigsaw and also, putting the finishing touches on Winchester, due out next year.

Michael Spierig: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a very busy time and you know, we’re very fortunate to be making two things we’re super proud of.

How has it been balancing the two projects? I imagine when you’re working on other films, you’re still pitching other projects and trying to make other things happen. But to have kind of two films happening almost simultaneously, [that] must be a challenge in some ways?

Peter Spierig: Well yeah, definitely.

Michael Spierig: Winchester has been a project that’s been going on for several years. We worked on that script for a couple of years and then that has been a project that has taken a much longer period of time to get going than Jigsaw did. We made Jigsaw in between, while we were still working on Winchester. So it just kind of worked out that way and it was great to go from one project to the next. It was the first time we’ve ever done it, and certainly want to do it again.

Jigsaw‘s the first feature that you’ve directed that you haven’t written yourself. How did that change the sort of responsibility, as directors, to kind of honour a script that you didn’t necessarily have a role in creating?

Peter Spierig: The thing is that Michael and I really responded well to the script and so we’re really excited about that. There was a process where we did work with the writers to make changes and things like that and that was a very collaborative process. Josh and Peter has already written a really terrific script and Michael and I had a point of view on where we wanted to take the Saw franchise, and the tone of it; how we felt certain things needed to play out. Certain twists and things like that. Everybody was onboard with that, including the producers and Liongate, so it was really collaborative. It’s not like we just turned up and said, “Action” and “Cut”. We all dug into it pretty deeply and reshaped certain things, made it out for sure.

And I imagine you were familiar with the franchise to that point as well. Had you seen the other films, just in your love of the horror genre?

Michael Spierig: We’ve certainly seen the other films and [have] been big fans of the other films; certainly, the first film is a horror classic. We felt like that even when we read the script, we could offer something a little different and steer the franchise perhaps in a slightly different tone to what it headed towards in the last few films. We just felt like we could contribute something, hopefully positive, to the series and put our own spin on it. Again, we felt like it has a seven year break from the last film, so it felt like it was time to bring it back and I know the producers were waiting for the right script to bring this film back on. Hopefully we got that all right!

The timing seems fortuitous as well because in the last couple of years there has been a reassurance of high quality and really successful horror films; Get Out on the more indie level and IT on the blockbuster level. What do you think it is about the horror genre right now that is connecting so well with audiences in ways that it rarely has over the decades?

Peter Spierig: It’s Donald Trump, how’s that?

He’ll make you float…

Peter Spierig: I think [with] horror films, people like that kind of escapist entertainment and people like to be scared. They’ve always enjoyed being scared. I think a film like Get Out or even IT, they are very, very different in terms of scope and scale, but they tap into fears and I think people like movies that do that. It’s like getting on a rollercoaster; why do you get on a rollercoaster? Because you want to be excited, scared and thrilled. I think that people like that kind of stuff.

Quite often, there’s lots of movies that come out that are very similar, that look similar, that sound similar, so when something’s a little bit different or something feels new, or is a reinvention of something that we’ve seen before than spins it a different way? People grab onto it pretty quick.

And with that in mind, going into Jigsaw, was there a real determined effort – I think you kind of answered this a little bit earlier – to really make it a standalone entry into the series that would improve on things in the past, but really set a new tone for the series moving forward, as it pulls a Johnny Farnham and comes back from the dead?

Peter Spierig: It’s just like Johnny Farnham, when you press the tape and you hear “You’re the Voice” on the tape player.

There’d be some sort of torturous element in that, that might work in a future Saw film. Keep that in mind, I don’t know…

Peter Spierig: I mean, the broad stroke of it is that we wanted to try and take the kind of ‘torture porn’ brand of Saw [out]; it wasn’t something we were interested in. We were interested in the thriller aspect of the franchise, of the original film in particular, because that was largely a thriller. It wasn’t all that violent through the course of seven movies. There is certainly interesting plots and twists and that kind of stuff, but there was a push to make it even more violent and make the traps more elaborate, so we talked about the idea of not making our focus on making it more disgusting, but more about making it thrilling and exciting.

That’s really interesting because when you look at your kind of history, when you look at Undead and Daybreakers, there aren’t torture porn films; they are very creative, innovative films with a thriller edge to them. I am really looking forward to seeing the film as a fan of the original, but not so much of the later ones. I think they had to go back to Australians to really revamp the series as they did with James at the very beginning; I think it’s very fortuitous that they brought you onboard.

Michael Spierig: Absolutely. One of our lead actors is Australian too; Matt Passmore, he’s from Brisbane.

All this talk about horror films, do you guys have a favourite from the history of horror films and do you have a favourite death in a horror film? You talked about the elaborate scenes in the past Saw films and then there’s the elaborate scenes in the Final Destination series and things like that. Do you have a favourite death in a past horror film and do you have a favourite horror film?

Peter Spierig: Sure, I mean certainly Saw has some good ones and my favourite would be – it’s in my favourite film as well – John Gardiner as ‘The Thing’. I loved the moment when the doctor uses the defibrillator on the guy and his stomach opens up and it turns into teeth and bites his arms off, that’s pretty awesome. That’s probably my favourite film of all time. That traumatised me as a kid, so that’s a good one.

Michael Spierig: I would tend to agree; there’s plenty of good deaths in the Evil Dead series. You know, a good one too, Peter, I’m just thinking…it’s not a horror film, but I always loved in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta shoots Marvin in the face in the back of the car. I think that’s one of the greatest deaths ever in a film. It was just so unexpected.

Peter Spierig: In terms of great horrors and terrifying, that’s definitely up there.

So we will leave it on this; with Jigsaw, what do you hope audiences experience when they go to see the film in just a couple of weeks from now?

Peter Spierig: My hope is that they enjoy the kind of experience of being back in this kind of universe. The kind of Jigsaw universe and the idea that there’s these traps and this series of obstacles; that these people have obviously done something in their past that’s led them to this place. The enjoyment of trying to figure out how they are going to get out of these things. Ultimately, I hope they get a real thing out of the twists and turns and the whodunnit factor of these movies, that it is all about building towards an ultimate climax. It’s such a fun, shared experience with an audience. That’s one of the real joys of horror films; sort of like comedies, they can often be better if they are shared with 300 people and they are all into it. They’re laughing or screaming, whatever it might be. So I hope a whole bunch of people go and have that shared experience.

Jigsaw is in cinemas today. Winchester hits cinemas on 22nd February 2018.