Screenwriter Leigh Whannell was unhappy with the work he was doing and began to suffer from migraines. He was convinced he might have a brain tumor and went to a neurologist for an MRI. Sitting in the office, he thought, what if you were to receive the news that you had a brain tumor and were going to die soon? How would you react to that? Those thoughts led him to create the character of John Kramer, a cancer-stricken sociopath whose resentment and inordinate attachment to life turn him into a merciless judge, jury and executioner, allowing his victims to decide their lives and the lives of others through twisted games.
Along with his colleague filmmaker James Wan, Whannel thought outside the box. Both are avid consumers of horror films, and they came up with the idea of starting a movie with two men chained in a bathroom, with a corpse in between them, not knowing what the hell had happened; Kramer is behind them, pulling the strings that decide their fate. Thus, Saw was born in 2004. The movie was well received at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival. Lionsgate invested a budget of barely $1 million in the project and ended up making over $100 million at the box office.
Eight sequels and $1 billion in revenues at the box office later, Saw is back with a new installment. This is the franchise’s tenth movie, its first in over seven years. This time, the action takes place in Mexico City, where Kramer—better known as serial killer Jigsaw—unleashes his revenge and bloody torture games once again.
Saw X takes place between the events of Saw (2004) and Saw II (2005). Desperate and sick, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) travels to Mexico to undergo an experimental and very risky treatment in the hopes of curing his deadly cancer. However, the entire operation turns out to be a fraud to deceive the most vulnerable. Filled with rage and a lurid new purpose, his new victims will face the most ingenious, deadly and torturous traps in a visceral and ruthless game.
Actresses Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernández and actors Octavio Hinojosa and Joshua Okamoto are part of the Mexican cast who will try to survive the games that Jigsaw has in store for them in Mexico City. Saw X director Kevin Greutert, who was the editor of six Saw films and also directed Saw VI and Saw VII 3D, says that the idea in the original script was initially for the movie to be filmed in Prague and Bulgaria, but ultimately Mexico was a “great choice,” and he could not imagine another version of the film without Mexican actors.
“There’s such mythology, the city is so amazing, and we can’t say enough about it. There’s something creepy about it, a certain history; it absolutely worked for us. I’m sure everyone knows that, but it’s the first time we’ve ever said where we are in a movie [in the Saw franchise]. And we really stand behind that,” Greutert says.
Renata Vaca, 24, who is also a musician, says she was 9 years old when she first watched Saw in the U.S. She saw it with her uncle, a fan of horror movies. Billy, the puppet, Jigsaw’s avatar in the films, caught her attention. “My uncle told me, ‘Dude, don’t wuss out on me.’ So, we saw it, and I was really scared. But look, it’s intense, and now here we are.” The actress, who will soon appear with Yalitza Aparicio and Diego Calva in Midnight Family, emphasizes that the film is like a trip back to the Mexico of 20 years ago, which can be seen in certain details like the clothing and yesteryear’s green and white cabs. “I had to do a lot of research for the role. It’s cool because you’ll feel like you’re in 2000s-era Mexico,” she says.
Okamoto, who was in the sequel to Sexo, pudor y lágrimas (Sex, Shame & Tears) and has Netflix and HBO Max projects in the works, admits that he hadn’t had a chance to see Saw before he was cast in the film. However, he does remember the Saw promotional poster and how it was illustrated: it had the piece of a calf with a foot and the fragment of a hand. “I felt very frightened when I saw the poster, and it left a very unpleasant feeling in my chest and stomach,” he recalls.
The first Saw film began with touches of gore and, according to several specialists, it later evolved into torture porn, because it uses violence to titillate the audience as if they were experiencing a sexual act.
In Saw X, Mexico becomes another character and influences different aspects of the narrative. “One of the great successes of this latest installment is that they manage to portray Mexico as another character. You can feel the city in the background, the textures, the colors. We are not only a country…there is a very folkloric culture, from the rituals of the Aztecs onward [and] some elements naturally sneak into the plot. In the traps, there are also, let’s say mythological, references that are part of urban legends, iconography, evidence of pre-Hispanic influences,” Okamoto explains.
With the exception of Octavio Hinojosa, none of the actors had ever been in a horror film before. All three agree that the biggest challenge in this film was keeping their emotions at full throttle during the 12-hour call. “That’s screaming, running, sweating, hyperventilating. The most difficult thing was to sustain those states,” says Okamoto. Vaca agrees with him: “You have to be all in, with your entire body, [and be] very open to what is happening in the moment, because sometimes what happens goes beyond what you had thought.”
“It was like doing theater… being there all the time, being seen all the time. It was very tiring, very exhausting. Emotions become real when they go through one’s body. There’s a part of you that says, ‘I’m in a [fictional story],’ but you do get upset. You do get scared. You do cry and you do experience it. That is very, very exhausting, but we actors are a little masochistic; we enjoy being on the edge of emotions, and at the end of a call, when you do things right you say: ‘Very good, I did it. That’s great,’” Hinojosa concludes.
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