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...And You Will Know Him By the Trail of the Dead
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

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At 28, Bousman (right) is at the helm of the most successful horror franchise on the market.

LEADER OF THE PACK
(Courtesy of San Francisco Examiner) 

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.”

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