Watching a horror film is a lot like experiencing what is happening on screen, asking yourself what would you do in the same situation and if you could survive. Those theories can now be put to the test thanks to Saw: The Escape Experience an escape room in London that puts you at the heart of a Saw story, where you must use your wits, and your ability to work within a team to save everyone from a grisly fate.
After experiencing one such game FILMHOUNDS, was ushered into one of the game rooms, with the echoes of screams from another game in the air, to speak with creative producer Tom Beynon about this new venture and the appeal of this long running franchise.
What is it about the Saw franchise that people are so attracted to?
It's a great question. For me what's so lovely, and what we've tried to mirror in the narrative here, is that Jigsaw is kind of a Robin Hood character. Obviously it's a slightly more nefarious way of doing it, but the people who are going through these trials and tribulations, are at their core there for a reason. A negative one. That idea of retribution and of redemption, in that context, is something that people can relate to.
I think the brand is an exciting brand, the twists and the turns that they come up with are so smart and so clever and that first film is such a fabulous one from start to finish. The way it's constructed, and the brand has successfully managed to across the franchise is replicate that. That's what keeps people coming back. There's a character that is relatable and has a driven reason for doing what he does.
Maybe not the best way to deal with them.
Well we've seen some of the guys he deals with, a lot of people would be like “I wouldn't let them have a chance”!
That's exactly it, you're dealing with these things that we all know are negative. Insurance salesman and bad doctors and actually it's something we can all understand.
It feels very prescient today, setting it in London, there's quite a few people…
Considering what's going on with Boris Johnson and Partygate.
How do you go about construction a narrative from a franchise that is about people cutting their own limbs off, without making someone sign a waiver saying “I am okay with losing a leg”?
That's a good question, and it was something we went back and forth with with the Lionsgate team who've been extremely supportive through this process. It's been a real collaboration with the studio. When we started there was a lot of discussion on how we would do that, and obviously we couldn't have customers paying to get put into traps and we looked into how that might work.
What we started doing, and again it's quintessential to the brand, is quite often the people that are in Jigsaw's traps are not actually the people committing those crimes but it's someone who's been stood to the side and allowed it to happen, or has done something the fascinate that to happen.
As you say being in London, the reason why we chose social housing and luxury accommodation is because it is so prevalent in the city right now and that idea of greedy corporate companies coming in and making all these wonderful promises and those disappearing is something we wanted to echo.
In the actual narrative I kept going back to Saw VI with the insurance guy, he doesn't actually have to do anything, he's choosing who in his team suffers and he has to reckon with his own guilt. There is an element of that within this narrative.
That's exactly it, sitting by and letting it happen.
Escape rooms are extremely popular, what is it that you think has made people so crazy about them recently?
People enjoy puzzles, but what's great about what we're trying to do at The Path Entertainment, is it's completely your game. If you're playing a game, the agency is with you as a player. It's up to you if you win or fail that escape room. I think that's something immersive audiences want, that idea of telling your own story. We like to incorporate the game into that and build a narrative. It's been really great. I think what we've done is blend those two worlds of immersive events and escape rooms, to make one long story all the way through.
The franchise has gone across platforms – it's video games, board games, there's an amazing rollercoaster – do you think there's anywhere that the Saw franchise hasn't gone to yet that it could?
You know what, I've had this conversation! I honestly think that first film would make a fantastic play.
I see that, it's like two guys in a room.
It's very easy on stage, I think you could do that so cleverly in a Round situation or even in the Arch situation. I think that could be something I would advocate seeing.
Jigsaw, unlike Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees, he inhabits a very real world. He comments on it. At the time of the first film there was a lot malpractice suits, and even when we get to Spiral it's dealing with the myth of the “one good cop against the corrupt cops”. Do you think there's a correlation between the revitalisation of the series and the boom in True Crime?
I think that's a really valid observation. Nobody likes corruption, it's something that unifies us, something we all dislike, yet have very little power to control, and very little power to affect directly. I think that's probably why the two correlate, that desire to take back control from others.
Finally, this is done in partnership with Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures and in about seven months we get the tenth film, was there anything they said “don't do” because it'll affect the movie or to put in as a reference or was it, do what want you?
We started developing this in 2018, it's been a long process – obviously COVID affected it a lot – but we'd started this long before they decided to start nailing down the script for the tenth film. So we took the idea of it being London, and the legacy of the Jigsaw character and ran with that.
How pissed are you going to be if Saw X is all about high-rise buildings?
You know what… I will be humbled!