While in town promoting SAW II, which opens nationwide this Friday, October 28, co-scripter Leigh Whannell gave Fango a few details about SILENCE, the Universal film that marks his and director James Wan’s follow-up to the first SAW. “It’s about a master ventriloquist named Mary Shaw, one of the greatest ventriloquists who ever lived, who lived in this old theater in the ’40s and had a huge collection of dolls. She dies, and her spirit comes back, and the way to summarize would be to say if she was a master ventriloquist when she was alive, imagine what she can do when she’s dead.”
Unlike in SAW, where he took one of the lead roles, Whannell reveals, “I’m not actually playing a part in this one. I wrote such a small cast that I was like, ‘Well, there’s nothing in it for me!’ I didn’t mind on this one; I just kind of wanted to get our second film going. It’s definitely unique. We felt that ventriloquism hadn’t been properly explored in horror before, so we really wanted to touch on that.
“It’s more of an old-school horror film,” he continues. “James and I are huge fans of that classic Hammer horror—the fog, the full moon—short of camp, we love that sort of Vincent Price style. This is a real throwback to that; it’s very different from SAW, which is more visceral and a brawnier horror film. SILENCE is much moodier; it’s slower-moving, and beautiful to look at. It’s not actually set back in the ’40s, but it has a feeling like it is, a real SLEEPY HOLLOW-like ambience.”
This diversion from SAW’s gruesome approach may surprise some fans of that film—and one imagines it gave Universal pause at first as well. “There was kind of that feeling,” Whannell acknowledges. “We pitched it to them and they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ and in retrospect I realized that we probably could have pitched them the phone book and they would have said, ‘Sounds beautiful, A through Z, that’s great!’ [Laughs] At the time I thought they were very enthusiastic about our story, but what they bought was SAW, so it did get a little weird while we were making it; I started thinking, ‘Did they just want us to recreate SAW?’ But to their credit, they haven’t” put any pressure on the filmmakers to do so.
But what of the fans? Is Whannell concerned that SAW’s devotees will find that the subtler SILENCE represents the duo “selling out” to the mainstream PG-13 mentality? “You’ve got to make the film that the story dictates,” Whannell states. “You can’t stick severed arms in a script just because you feel that’s what people expect from you. We’re just making our film, and if it gets a PG-13 rating, it’s certainly not because we were trying for it, it’s because it’s a very different film from SAW. We’ve done that, and we don’t want to repeat ourselves.” Go < href="http://www.saw2.com/" target="_blank">here to see SAW II’s official website.