Darren Lynn Bousman likes sesame bagels and cinnamon
bagels. He even likes chocolate chip. But he’s never lost his appreciation for
the bagel in its purest form – the plain bagel. He hopes you won’t, either.
“I love regular bagels,” he says. “Every day, they invent
new varieties – garlic, blueberry, whatever – but none of them take
anything away from that original bagel. The same is true of the Saw films.
You could put 1,000 Saw sequels out there, and none of them would invalidate
the feelings, the terror that the first three inspire.
"Do I want them to make
1,000 Saw movies? No. But I don’t think the new Star Wars movies ruined
the original trilogy, and even if the Saw series eventually jumps the shark,
and Kato Kaelin or Gary Busey ends up playing Jigsaw, the work we’ve done will
stand the test of time.”
At 28, the director of Saw II and III might seem a bit
young to be running the most lucrative horror franchise on the market, but he’s
spent a lifetime learning how to be scary. A self-proclaimed horror fanatic and
student of the genre, Bousman grabbed the reins quite unexpectedly, after
unsuccessfully pitching his own script for a movie called The Desperate.
The studios dismissed his story as too similar to the original Saw – a problem
for them, perhaps, but not for Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Wannell, who
used his script as the framework for their first sequel.
Despite his frustration before that fortuitous break – “I
was bitter about the crappy jobs I had,” he says, “so I wrote the most
offensive screenplay I could think of” – Bousman already ranks among the most
successful horror directors in history. His first two features debuted atop the
box-office charts; now, he is working on his most over-the-top project to date,
a rock opera littered with mutilated corpses, ruptured spinal cords and cracked
skulls. Bousman doesn't care to be typecast, but admits he’s not ready to
try his hand at romantic comedy.
Being part of the so-called “Splat Pack” – a group of
cutting-edge directors with a taste for ultraviolence – he is impatient with
the MPAA. While acclaimed auteurs like Steven Spielberg are often given the
benefit of the doubt by the ratings board, Bousman realizes his own movies
will be cut little slack.
“The board is basically five guys, and they don’t operate
according to any established rules,” he says. “They rate movies based on how
they feel afterward, so if they’re having a bad day, you’re screwed. Take War
of the Worlds, for instance. Spielberg is a genius, but that movie is
horrific. He’s killing off kids, babies and mothers, and if anyone else had
made that movie it would have been rated R. But if you’re a filmmaker with a
certain clout, it becomes easier to navigate those waters.
“Why? Because people don’t treat horror films as
legitimate art. There is a double standard for movies like Saw and Hostel
and Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Those films are viewed under a microscope. It
wasn’t until the MPAA’s sixth viewing of Saw III that they even hinted at the
changes we needed to make to get an R rating. It’s frustrating, because you
feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle from the start.”
Now, as Bousman prepares to
unveil the unrated director’s
cut of Saw III on DVD, he is ready to move on, though he plans to track the
progress of the franchise as a hands-on producer.
“There could be 19 Saw movies,”
he says. “There probably
will be. The producers know that I’m a huge horror fan, that I want to
franchise to thrive and make money, so there’s a trust between us. When I read
the script for Saw IV, it blew my mind because they did it again, they made
it work. If I ever read a script and say, ‘This is awful, this could never
happen,’ they’ll listen to me.
“I’ll always read the scripts and I’ll
always offer opinions.
The only way for this franchise to survive is to retain a certain integrity, to
stay smart and on top of the horror genre. As long as I’m around, I plan to
make sure that happens.”