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the pitches

Chris Sully

Chris Sully

Title: Saw: Escape!
Directed by: Brian Duffield
Starring: Katherine Langford (Katherine Keyes), Andrew Garfield (Todd Greinke), Dev Patel (William Easterly), Sandra Bullock/Robin Wright (Claire Young)

We focus in on a young woman, Katherine (played by Katherine Langford) in her bedroom. The walls decked out with horror movie posters and collectibles. She’s ending a video call with a friend on her computer and is clearly excited about a new event happening in her favorite VR game. She closes the video chat and puts on her VR headset. Similar to Ready Player One, we are taken into the virtual world to see what she sees in the headset.

The load screen graphic for the game comes up – ESCAPE! The game begins with Katherine seeing her own hands out in front of her. She is in an abandoned building, in a small room, chained to the floor. At first she is in full control of the scenario and we hear her say “OK – what is the challenge to this one? There’s got to be a key around here somewhere. There’s always a key.” She turns her head left and right, looking around the room for clues. Just about that time, a monitor mounted to the wall turns on. The rest of the room is dark and so her eyes immediately focus in on the screen. She realizes then that she isn’t the only one in the room. There are several other players in the room with her.

Something is different this time. Katherine is really impressed with the visual updates to the game and comments on how real it looks. A face and voice come up on the screen, but it’s not what she has seen in the past. This time, it is a weird Max Headroom looking video of a character with a painted face, dark black hair, a red bow tie and….. “Wait” she screams. “They did it!!” They really brought Jigsaw into the game! You can hear the excitement and disbelief in her voice.

As Jigsaw begins to speak, something very weird happens. She is no longer in control. Katherine can no longer move her head or hands. They are, in fact moving on their own, but laser focused on the screen at the moment. Jigsaw goes into one of his typical scripts, warning how everyone in the room had not valued their lives and had committed some horrible act toward their fellow man, blah, blah, blah… but then ends with “but this time, it is REAL!” Katherine is thrown a little, but says “interesting twist – let’s see how it plays out.”

The game commences and the people in the room begin to play the game, clearly designed to kill all but one of them. Katherine still can’t control her character and begins to think that something is broken, when she hears another voice. The voice isn’t coming from one of the other players, but from her character. Katherine speaks, but quickly realizes the other person can’t hear her. It’s then that Katherine realizes… this isn’t the game, but a LIVE feed of real events, unfolding before here via VR. She watches in horror as her character plays the game and wins, but all while watching the horrible demise of the other “players” in the game…. Mutilated, bloody, real..” Oh my God, it’s real” she says as she removes the headset and throws up right there in the middle of her room.

She cleans herself up and she turns to her phone to confirm her suspicions. Twitter, Reddit TikTok & several horror blogs she follows all confirm. Everyone playing the game saw the same thing and several of the characters in the game have been identified. It was all real & everyone saw real live footage of people being killed.

We cut to a silicon valley office building and right into the middle of an important meeting. The meeting is at the home office of the creators of the Escape VR game – Todd Greinke and William Easterly. They, along with a room full of suits, are arguing over how this happened and more importantly, why? The stock price of the company is dropping by the minute and everyone is in full panic mode. The decision has been made to shut the game down until further notice.

We fast forward to the end of the day. Greinke and Easterly head out of the building, look at each other & simply shake their heads, then get into to their cars and drive off.

The next morning, the FBI rolls into GIDEON games to question Greinke and Easterly, but they are nowhere to be found. No one from the office has heard from them since the day before. The FBI agents are just about to leave the office to check in on the two creators at their homes when they hear a collective gasp from different areas of the lobby and building. One of the young ladies at the front counter, with a horrible look on her face, turns her monitor to reveal a social post announcing the “Next Chapter” in the ESCAPE series will be available later that day. The post is accompanied by a photo of the game creators, chained to a wall.

That evening, Greinke and Easterly wake up to find themselves chained to that very wall, with their heads held in place and arms held out in front of them on metal plates. They have been out for hours and, although the rest of the world knows their situation, they are just piecing things together. They look up on the wall to see a monitor and two digital clocks. One reads 60:00 and the other is quickly increasing in number. It is already in the millions and bouncing up in tens of thousands every few seconds.

The screen turns on and Jigsaw appears again. He reveals that Greinke and Easterly will be his next “contestants” and that they have profited from his pain & suffering. His work was meant to rehab people and was never meant for the personal gain of a few game creators. They would pay for their actions but had the chance to live, if they could learn from their actions. In typical Jigsaw fashion, they are presented with the opportunity to escape, if they will only give up the very thing that allowed them to bring the game to the millions of players – their eyes and fingers. They can however, be allowed their freedom IF they can figure out who it is that put them in this scenario. As with the game they created, they can ESCAPE if they can just solve the puzzle. Other screens light up around JIGSAW showing posts to the official ESCAPE Reddit & other social platforms. The clock begins to count down from 60:00 and two giant machines lower from the ceiling above them. It is clear that these machines will eventually puncture their eyes and cut off their outstretched fingers by the time that clock hits zero.

The FBI has less than an hour to try and figure out where the two game creators are being held. There is simply no way they can do it. In fact, the only hope for Greinke and Easterly is the people watching. That other number on the wall that keeps going up – it’s the number of people watching. Millions are out there and can help, but where to start? Posts are flooding in and the two, chained to a wall, can only offer suggestions while the rest of the world uses whatever means necessary to track down information.

Greinke and Easterly, terrified and angry being to pitch out ideas and theories, but are granted no additional information. Who had they wronged? Who’s pain had they profited from. They each rattled off pretty lengthy lists of people they had wronged, but the machine kept moving closer and closer. They admitted to horrible acts, shady business deals & more that helped them get their game to market and put money in their pockets, but nothing they said stopped the clock. The machines moved closer and were already beginning to pierce their fingers and were getting dangerously close to their eyes.

With five minutes to go, Greinke mentioned Jigsaw’s early apprentices and the clock briefly blinked yellow, but the timer didn’t stop. Was this a hint that they were on the right track? They pushed that line of thinking, but even as self proclaimed Jigsaw experts, could not get past the names of the two – Amanda Young and Mark Hoffman. Each had already lost parts of their fingers to the machine and the pain was taking over. They threw out every detail they could think of and, with less than a minute to go, Easterly yelled “Michael!!!” – “Michael Young.” The clock stopped and the two were dropped from the wall.

As they raised themself up off the ground, they continued discussing Michael Young. Flashbacks and voice over revealed that Michael and his mother Claire (played by Sandra Bullock) had come to visit their office years before, begging them to change or stop producing the ESCAPE game. Michael’s sister Amanda was one of Jigsaw’s victim’s and early apprentice, before she was found dead. They were just a couple of the MANY such people that had approached GIDEON games about stopping production of the game. They were only provided a few minutes to talk with the game creators and were basically told to F off by the companies lawyers.

After that meeting, Michael had focused all he had on revenge and did everything he could to fight the company. He eventually decided to use Jigsaw’s tactics and hacked the game to play out his own scenarios.

Greinke and Easterly shared everything they could remember about Michael Young and his mother with the FBI while being loaded into ambulances. Each had lost significant portions of their fingers and had already suffered pretty severe trauma to their eyes before the clock stopped. The FBI, thinking that was all they needed, raided the Young home, only to find nobody home. Clearly there had been a struggle in the home and nobody had been there for days. During their investigation of the home, one of the FBI agents brought up his phone to find another social post about an upcoming “in game” event for ESCAPE titled #Chapter2, accompanied by a photo of Michael and Clarice Young, but they were shown bound and gagged. Clearly the game wasn’t over.

Title: The Sawmill
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: cillian murphy (dennis carter), Natasha o’keeffe (lainey carter), joseph fiennes (Det. Jeff Smalls), Issa Rae (Det. Samantha Tapp), Kevin Bacon (The Assistant)

We open on a pair of muffled screams, red liquid swirling into the drain of a small concrete room. A man and woman are tied to nearby slabs, both stripped to their underwear. The man is being waterboarded, flailing and fighting for air. The buzz of a reciprocating saw kicks to life and a masked villain cackles as they lower the blade to the woman’s leg. She howls in terror, and as the man is allowed a brief gasp of air, he shouts “Strawberry shortcake!”

Say it again says a hooded man holding a running hose by the victim’s face. The victim is weeping. “Strawberry shortcake” he whimpers. “Stop.”

“Damn you” says the woman, her masked captor letting her free from her restraints. “You didn’t last,” she looks to the other captor who removes his hood.

“22 minutes,” he says.

“22 minutes Michael!” screams the woman.

“I’m sorry, Jamie,” says Michael. The red dye from his hair is streaking down his neck and chest.

Jamie is up from her table, her legs intact. “You ruined our honeymoon.”

Dennis Carter steps outside a barn, smoking a cigarette while he watches the young couple get dressed, the woman putting her piercings back into various parts of her face. Their argument carries into the car as they drive away down a rural road, presumably back to civilization. Carter dismisses his assistant. “That’s it for the weekend,” says Carter, “Nothing booked until next week.” The assistant, an older man with little to say, hangs up his pig mask for another day and drives off.

John Kramer, AKA Jigsaw, has been dead over 15 years, but his legacy lives on in ‘Sawmill,’ a voluntary horror house where victims pay to be mock tortured. The facility operates in the middle of nowhere, where screams can’t be heard, but business is down.

While Carter’s weekends were once busy torturing guests, visitors mostly came for the Jigsaw museum, where deadly devices from Kramer and his legacy test makers are housed in rows of glass rooms, each made to resemble the crime scene where they were used. Even that has had waning interest in recent years.

Carter steps inside the museum, an adjoining structure to the barn. He passes the gift shop and heads through a blackened curtain. Inside are familiar sites from Jigsaw tests through the ages: The Reverse Bear Trap, The Furnace, The Razor Box, The Shotgun Collar. He passes them all to a workshop where a woman is tinkering with a menacing-looking device.

It’s his wife, Lainey Carter. She’s upset about the business but mostly angry the he won’t let her participate in the fake tortures, claiming the assistant costs money they don’t have. Dennis says he won’t risk a repeat of what happened years before, and it’s then that police come knocking on the museum door.

Veteran detective Jeff Smalls and rookie Samantha Tapp have come in from the city. There’s a copy-cat Jigsaw killer, and they want Dennis to help them track down the suspect by looking over the devices and crime scenes. As a Jigsaw expert and through his own personal interest, Carter helps the detectives with the case.

Niece to David Tapp, the detective sliced by Jigsaw and killed by Zep Hindle years before, Samantha is personally vested in squashing anyone looking to bring back the Jigsaw name, and she doesn’t care for people like Dennis Carter who seem to celebrate the killer’s work. Jeff Smalls on the other hand is fascinated by the philosophy of fear and its power to invigorate the living.

With Carter’s help, the investigation initially leads to Charles Vince, a Jigsaw superfan and frequent visitor to the Sawmill museum. He has a small museum of devices himself and the detectives take him to the station for questioning. While there, another Jigsaw death is discovered. She’s a black market Jigsaw collectibles dealer. Carter knows her work and Vince admits he’s bought stuff from her before.

Carter says there are other Jigsaw museums out there like his, many boasting possession of genuine devices and items owned and used by the killer. The only way they could obtain such showpieces are through black market deals. Smalls and Tapp wonder if a deal had gone wrong.

They go to question one of the museums, which runs its own torture house, to find the caretakers are dead, more Jigsaw victims. Tapp and Smalls begin to wonder if Carter may be offing the competition and attempting to renew public interest in Jigsaw to boost his own business. Carter meanwhile recognizes the trap once again, an original creation by his wife, Lainey.

Smalls ventures to a second competitor, the last one for hundreds of miles in the area, and Tapp lets Carter off the case to surveil his movements. Carter confronts his wife, thinking she may be behind the killings and she says someone broke in and stole her work.

Smalls runs into a dead end at the competitor’s place, but decides to stay for a torture session, excited by the discovery of this new world. While there, the killer strikes, and Smalls’s fake torture turns very real.

When Smalls and the museum caretakers are reported murdered, Tapp and the Carters recognize that someone is targeting Jigsaw enthusiasts and Tapp wants to put the Carters into hiding. They forget about the assistant torturist, however, until he calls the police station. He tells them the Jigsaw copycat has him hostage.

Tapp and the Carters rush to the Sawmill, realizing too late they’ve entered a trap. They’re knocked out with gas and wake in Carter’s museum, inside respective glass rooms and locked into their own test devices. A race against time, the Carters manage to escape their own devices and instructs Tapp how to free herself. They think they’ve beaten the killer’s game only to be knocked out by gas once again.

Awakened in a new room, Tapp and the Carters are in a competitive test, one which allows only one survivor. On a TV screen we hear Jigsaw’s voice and the assistant, gagged with a gun to his head. He says Jigsaw isn’t a man to be revered, and people like the Carters need to burn with the rest of the torture sickos.

Carter realizes this new device is not encased in glass. Using his cigarette lighter he starts a fire which sets off the museum sprinklers, allowing Tapp to slip her restraints.

The assistant runs from hiding. He wasn’t gagged, and they realize the video was a ruse. The Carter’s assistant is the Jigsaw killer. He says his son got deep into faux torture and Jigsaw nonsense years before, and when he mysteriously disappeared, he had to find out what happened. He suspected a torture house was at fault, but none of the owners would confess.

Lainey admits she killed the man’s son. That it was an accident in the early days of the Sawmill when one of the sessions went too far. They covered up the death, knowing it would ruin their lives and the business. She agrees to go to jail and shut down the Sawmill, and the killer agrees to let them go, but the device won’t turn off. Tapp and the new Jigsaw can’t break or slow it, and in a desperate moment, the killer throws himself into the gears of the machine.

The Carters are freed from the device, but Tapp restrains them both and puts them in the back of her police car. They drive from the Sawmill, headed back to civilization.

The End. Or is it? Yes, it is.

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