Why 'Spiral' Director Darren Bousman's Research Put Him on 'Every FBI Watch List Possible'

After 15 years away, he had to come up with new traps and kills for the “Saw” sequel’s victims

Beatrice Verhoeven

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven’t seen “Spiral.”)

After taking an almost 15-year break from the “Saw” franchise, Darren Bousman is back with “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” which means he had to come up with new, creative traps and kills for the victims in the film.

“We leaned into BDSM a lot,” Bousman told TheWrap. “Since the killer was no longer Jon Cramer, we wanted him to have a different aesthetic. It’s really subtle — we wanted the traps to have more BDSM feel. The tongue trap in the first scene was from a BDSM website… I swear to God I am on every FBI watch list possible.”

He added: ‘It’s been increasingly harder to figure out the traps, not only because some of them don’t end up working, but because everything has been done. I would be like, what if we did this, and everyone was like, we did that in ‘Saw 6’ or in ‘Saw 19,’ or whatever. It’s getting harder to invent them. I have an idea to go back to the original one like the needle trap — it was the simplicity of that trap that made it so special. Those traps were so simple: go in the oven, put your hand on a razor — those traps still make me cringe because they were so simple.” 

spiral chris rock max minghella

To make the traps as authentic as possible, the filmmakers tested them on mannequin dolls after engineers designed them, before they went to a special effects team.

“A lot of the times, it doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to,” he added. “The guy with the tongue trap, for example, it didn’t work so we had to change it. The original scene had 100 fish hooks in his mouth and tongue and you had all these wires, which is a great visual, but the weight of his body would just have ripped the tongue, not dislodge it. So that’s where the device came in.”

“Spiral” stars Chris Rock as a cop who has to investigate grisly murders that are eerily similar to the Jigsaw murders that plagued the city in the past. However, he soon finds himself at the center of the killer’s game. Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger wrote the script, and the film also stars Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols and Samuel L. Jackson. 

One entire death had to be cut from the final movie because apparently, it was even too much for the filmmaker, who directed “Saw 2,” “Saw 3” and “Saw 4,” to handle. However, he won’t say which scene it was in case it could show up in a future “Saw” movie. “It was too graphic and mean. This ‘Saw’ film was more commercial than the others, and we didn’t want to alienate the audience. I love gore but even this one was too much for me.”

Indeed, “Spiral” feels different than previous “Saw” films. It’s a moody, noir cop drama, which takes you on a ride to figure out who the killer is, with many twists and turns. Bousman said he and Chris Rock spoke about movies they would want to use as inspiration from the very beginning, and “48 Hrs.” and “Se7en” were the ones they used for guidance.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen ’48 Hrs.’ and Chris was like, go back and watch it again,’ and it was not what I remembered,” Bousman explained. “It is not a comedy — it’s a gritty, vicious, violent cop saga that happens to have Eddie Murphy cracking jokes. That’s what Chris wanted — he wanted a ‘Saw’ movie with jokes in it. And me coming back, I wanted to do something unique. I wanted to step away from ‘torture porn’ that these movies have been dubbed – I wanted it to have a mysterious ‘Se7en’ vibe.”

The film was shot in 2019 and wrapped in February 2020, right before the pandemic lockdown started. “Spiral” was supposed to hit theaters last May but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the film became even more timely because of the release date shift due to #BLM and the focus on police brutality in the United States.

“This was going on back then too, it just shows how f—ed up our system is. This is the same version that we filmed in 2019, it was left untouched since,” he said. “It will strike a button with some people, and the fans of the franchise will find a whole level to it. The tonal balance is dark and disturbing, but there is a level of fun to it, and that’s what I like about this movie.”

The ending leaves things up in the air – so what are the chances of a sequel?

“I think all of us wish and want to continue the ‘Saw’ franchise and want it to be successful,” he said. “I had to take a step away from the franchise because I made them all so close together, but I’ve got more that I want to say. It’s up to the fans to go see it. It’s not the traditional ‘Saw’ film — the franchise got so convoluted with the interwoven mythology, and it was a daunting task with this film to wipe the slate clean. It drew me back again — it exists in the universe of where there can be a ‘Saw 9’ or a ‘Spiral 2.’”

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