Bloody good gore must be realistic

But the precise shade and viscosity of onscreen blood is part of a movie's creative statement. Just ask Filmmaker and "Saw" veteran David Hackl

October 28, 2009
Toronto Star
By Linda Barnard

Onscreen gore is a bloody serious matter in the horror film business.

Too thin and bright and the blood looks fake; too thick and it's a nightmare to clean up.

"One of the funniest meetings we have every year is the blood meeting," says Toronto filmmaker David Hackl, who has worked on every Saw movie since Saw II. He's tapped to direct Saw VII, where the franchise enters a new dimension in gore by going 3-D. Like its predecessors, it will be in theatres for Halloween with a release date of October 2010.

Hackl, a soft-spoken 46-year-old father of two young sons, also directed Saw V and says it sounds strange, but blood continuity is "absolutely necessary" on the set.

"Each department is responsible for its own blood: wardrobe, hair and makeup, special effects, props. We all have to agree on the kind of blood we use," he explains.

The blood is purchased from a theatrical supply house and costs about $15 per litre, Hackl says. A typical Saw shoot uses 70 to 90 litres of blood, which can be custom thinned to get a nice splatter, or thickened to pool just right.

"The blood you get now is quite good quality," he adds. "You have to be able to get it into your mouth or eyes. It has to be hypoallergenic, non-staining."

A director always has to worry about how well the blood cleans up. Precious time can be wasted on setting up reshoots. That's why directors try to build on bloody scenes, Hackl explains.

How blood looks onscreen can also make a creative statement about the movie.

In the case of TIFF '09 hot ticket Daybreakers, an artful vampire flick starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, the blood mimicked dark crimson wine.

Twin-brother directors Michael and Peter Spierig wanted their blood to be viscous and a deep burgundy colour because much of the film is set in an abandoned vineyard.

"We wanted to have a red wine tone to it," explained Peter, who was in Toronto with his brother for the movie's world premiere. "The colour palate of the film, we have a lot of blues and so, to contrast with that, the red can really pop out."

In Daybreakers, vampires are in the majority and the rapidly dwindling human population that feeds them are the fearful minority. Neill plays a scheming corporate wheel at a blood facility where research, headed by hematologist Hawke, is underway to discover a blood substitute. Daybreakers opens in January 2010.

"The blood was made from syrupy stuff and food dye, and we wanted it to look like wine, so when Sam (Neill) is drinking it from a glass and pouring it from a bottle it comes across more as a beverage."

Meanwhile, director Hackl is in early screen tests to make the most of the blood for Saw VII's 3-D debut.

"We are going to have the blood flying wholesale. It's going to be everywhere," he says with glee. "I'm just sitting here thinking how can we make it jet out. We did one test on it and it was beautiful - we had blood fly out from the screen and land in the audience behind them. It was just great."