"We have a team that just cleans blood. It's pretty hardcore," says production designer Anthony Stabley
The Saw filmmakers can stomach just about anything when conceiving the franchise's shocking contraptions.
Nearly 20 years later, the Saw franchise lives on with its 10th installment, Saw X.
This entry, which takes place between the events of the first and second films, features the return of John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) — plus a new collection of literal eye-popping traps.
Has there ever been a trap too gruesome to make the final cut? "Rarely is something too extreme for Saw," says director Kevin Greutert, who's been involved with the franchise since editing the 2004 original.
Producer Oren Koules tells PEOPLE they've "shelved some" hardcore concepts in the past. "But," he says, "we've been dealing with the MPAA for 20 years, so we kind of know a little bit where our borders are, where we can push and where we can't. We try to do the best we can."
Out of context, their brainstorming sessions can get a little alarming for any eavesdroppers — which is why the creative team stopped workshopping Saw ideas in public settings.
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"There's a group of people who all meet. Anthony Stabley, our production designer, had a whole trap team and their only job was coming up with and building the traps," says producer Mark Burg.
Adds Koules of the brainstorming meetings, "We used to do it in a restaurant, but it doesn't work as much anymore because people freak out sitting around us."
"We'll sit there and go, 'So if we cut somebody's ear off, how much blood do you think comes out? And if you rip out somebody's tongue, can they still live? I know they can't talk but...' And you see people kind of looking at you overhearing, eavesdropping," says Burg. "So we moved it to Oren's living room."
Koules explains that the team comes up with the storyline first, putting placeholders in the screenplay for "trap 1," "trap 2" and so forth. Then, "Let's start thinking of really twisted ways to get our point across," he adds.
Stabley admits he felt "terrorized" for a few weeks while he was thinking about inventive torture methods for the film. For the latest film, they harkened back to the early installments.
"It's just a matter of taste. I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that we love the first two Saw films. We wanted to go back to that world. We wanted to make sure the fans appreciated that and our traps."
Safety is prioritized on the Saw set while simulating the scary situations with the actors, stunt performers and effects teams.
Greutert says, "There's a scene close to the end that involves a lot of blood and that was very challenging for the people that had to be on camera for that stunt. There were some hand gestures they were instructed to use for when it was too much — and they used it, because it was hard."
Adds Stabley of the craftsmanship at play in a Saw trap sequence, "All of these traps, we're incorporating the prosthetics department, stunt department, mechanical effects, our art department. We have a team that just cleans blood! It's pretty hardcore."
Saw X is in theaters now.
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