When it comes to 21st Century horror franchises, few can compete with Saw. Almost 20 years since James Wan introduced the world to Tobin Bell's infernally brilliant trap maker John Kramer - aka "Jigsaw" - the franchise has amassed over $1 billion at the box office, making a brutal return in 2023's Saw X, directed by longstanding series regular Kevin Greutert.
But while the series has offered plenty of gruesome death scenes for gore hounds over the years, there's one fan favourite that'll stick with us for years to come (pun very much intended). We're talking of course about the appearance of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington in 2010's Saw 3D [the seventh film in the franchise] and his particularly splat-happy demise via a grimly boobytrapped car that could turn even the strongest stomach.
“It’s a real fan favourite!" cackles Kevin Greutert, director of Saw VI, Saw 3D and Saw X. "One of our producers was actually Chester’s neighbour and I was very excited to have him participate."
While Kevin was delighted to have Chester signed up to play Evan, leader of a group of racist skinheads about to learn a very important lesson, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park for Chester himself.
"As the film came together and we prepared for shooting it became apparent it was going to be a tough one," Kevin admits. "What he endured on set, basically we’d got him doing what we’d usually get a seasoned stunt man to do!"
"It was the dead of Toronto winter and we were on location in a junkyard," he continues. "It was freezing cold and took five nights to shoot that scene, so Chester was shirtless the whole time. He also had to have this gigantic prosthetic on his back for where the skin pulls off. But he was such a good sport and so quiet; very intense but really nice and committed to making sure it was good. I was wearing a parka and freezing so what a good guy!”
As for how the scene turned out, Greutert says Chester seemed utterly delighted with it - as did his co-stars. "It worked out really well and actually, the girl who gets crushed under the car actually won a TV contest to get that part," he explains. "It was like, ‘you won!’ and fast forward a few weeks she’s in Toronto winter, freezing outside as a car spins its wheels over her head. That’s Hollywood!”
With 2021's Spiral resurrecting the franchise and Greutert now bringing back Tobin Bell, he admits Saw X has opened up plenty of opportunities for the franchise to continue forward. “It’s fantastic," he enthuses. "I can’t believe that not only did we get selected to make this film, but that the team did such a great job. We’ve been elated with the response.”
As for how things have changed in his time away from the franchise, he says the most exciting thing for him is obvious. “We brought back Tobin Bell!" he says with a coy smile. "And Billy The Puppet actually, who is kind of the centrepiece of the marketing campaign. It’s so exciting – I never would have dreamed when we made [the original] Saw that the puppet would be riding tricycles down Times Square. Wherever they put him, it’s amazing, but bringing Tobin back is a close second.”
“We actually reflected on the other instalments," adds production designer Anthony Stabley. "It was a conscious decision for us to really look at [2021’s franchise reboot] Spiral but also decide to go back to the series’ roots – I think that was an important decision for all of us. We’ve been getting great responses on the trailers, and with the traps we figured it important to simplify them on a certain level, but also to make them more realistic. They’re just as brutal, but we wanted a sense that these were things that John Kramer could genuinely create.”
The pair remain tight-lipped on the chances of more metal stars popping up in future instalments, but given its positive reviews and the fact it's already amassed almost $30 million at the box office, we'd say it's only a matter of time.
Watch the full Chester scene below: (WARNING: Not for the faint hearted)