'Saw's Scariest Character: The Behind-The-Scenes Creation Of Billy The Puppet
Welcome to Inside The Slashers Studio, Cracked's weekly exploration into the backgrounds of killer characters that make horror movies scary. Today's topic: Saw.
Born from the imagination of John Kramer and outliving him in the end, we guess, this modern iconic horror puppet has been the face of Jigsaw's wicked and deathly games since the 2000s. Here we look at the origins and evolution of the puppet who has appeared in eight of the Saw films and spawned even more puppets and also its own line of Funko Pop dolls: The Saw franchise's very own, Billy the Puppet.
Billy the Puppet — who got his name from creator James Wan and the crew — proved to be a genius tool to John Kramer's brand of crazy. Thanks to Billy, Kramer could simply hide behind the face of a puppet who looks like it was late for dinner at Dr. Frank-N-Furter's castle because it had to peddle that tiny tricycle the whole damn way.
It only took four movies to reveal to us the tragic origin story of the incredibly odd-looking puppet. See, before Puppet Billy became a clay-cesory to murder, he was lovingly assembled by the yet-to-turn bat poop bonkers Kramer as a gift to his wife and their unborn son Gideon. Bobby the Puppet was the prototype — a smaller puppet carved from wood that looked only slightly less creepy than his successor Billy:
Kramer's wife then had a miscarriage that drove the old man first to suicide and then to vengeance. Nothing like a car crash and a bump to the ol' noggin to make someone completely lose it, apparently, and that was all happening while the puppet with the fancy suit and ash-white face was beginning to take form. Billy the Puppet was literally the product of Kramer's trauma. This is what a psychopath's grief looks like, folks:
Honestly, his wife and also everyone in his life should've seen the red flags with these dolls long before things went so south. Who in their right mind makes a puppet for a baby that looks like it ate its own teeth, has protruding cheeks like a Madonna cone bra and also is a terrifying ventriloquist doll?
But hey, it's always the guys you least expect, right?
The Construction And Evolution
We first meet Billy the Puppet in Saw during both Amanda Young and also that petrifying reverse bear trap's introduction:
It was a good call introducing us to Jigsaw's diabolical puppet during this game because, thanks to Amanda actually beating that bear trap, we got to see Billy ride up on his little tricycle to make the whole sequence even creepier and also confirm to us that he does in fact have a lower body.
A couple of scenes later, Billy lets us hear his chilling little laugh that sounds like a baby that is also a monkey.
The original puppet we see in the first movie — made by Wan himself — had a face crafted from good ol' clay and papier-mâché. The thing's eyes were painted ping pong balls, it was stuffed with paper towel rolls on the inside, and Billy One was pulled around the set with some hard-to-spot fishing line. As old school as that silly little bowtie.
Saw II gave Billy a bit of an upgrade thanks to the sequel's fat cash injection. The new puppet now sported remote-controlled eyes and a servo-driven mouth … that still looked like someone knocked out all its teeth. Listen, we're not saying we want a puppet with teeth. We're just saying those flat lips make Billy look like someone's shriveled up, demented, most definitely racist grandpa.
With Saw III, the crew was given the original puppet to work with; only the original Billy was not, in fact, working. It had picked up too much damage over time, so they simply replicated him using foam instead of fiberglass and kept him seated on the chair of his tricycle by way of magnets instead of duct tape.
Other than that, Billy didn't really change much. Except that he multiplied. In Saw VI, we see a glimpse of the many iterations Kramer had made (as backups, presumably) which makes us wonder why there never was a spin-off about the inevitable "Rise of the Billies." Sure, a lot of them got blown up in Saw 3D, but Billy was back for Jigsaw after that. There's probably another entire secret warehouse filled with Billies just waiting to be activated. Maybe Billy's already achieved sentience somehow and has an entire notebook of death traps planned out and ready to be executed, all by himself and his horde of Billies.
Billy might be the puppet with the most cameos in the history of cinema, thanks to both Wan and writer Leigh Whannell's love for homages of their own work in their other own work.
Here he is painted onto a wall in Wan's Death Sentence (2007):
And here he is making a full-body appearance in Wan's other puppet horror movie, Dead Silence (2007):
Here he is on a school's blackboard, for some inexplicable reason, in this scene from Insidious (2010), directed by Wan and written by Whannell:
Here he is as a wall doodle again in Whannell's Upgrade (2018):
He just seems to have a face for a wall, really, because he can even be spotted in the background in The Invisible Man (2020), also directed by Whannell.
The vicious Billy who has no mercy also makes, uh, multiple cameos in Scary Movie 4 … which we’re sure he would like us to immediately forget.
Truly, it never ends with this puppet and probably never will if James Wan (and Whannell) keeps making movies. Also, Wan sure has a thing for puppets, and once said that his fascination with them all stems from watching the famous Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper horror when he was young:
"Poltergeist was the film that scarred me for life. I saw it at such a young age — 5 or 6 years old — and it has one of the creepiest doll sequences with the clown, and ever since then, I've just been fascinated by dolls. Actually, I should say I'm fascinated with ventriloquist dummies and that whole psychosis that goes along with ventriloquism."
When asked about the difference between a doll and a ventriloquist dummy, he brings up Saw:
"A doll just sits there. A ventriloquist's dummy has a ventriloquist behind it giving it life, and I love the whole psychological aspect of who's really in control. That's what makes it scary for me, and that's why I had a ventriloquist puppet and a puppet master in the first Saw film and why my second movie was all about ventriloquism. Something that isn't supposed to have life seems to have life."
Yep. That's pretty scary. Billy the Puppet is the harbinger of death in the Saw franchise, which ultimately gives him way more power over life than any of the poor folks who have to lay their eyes on him before trying to escape from Jigsaw's cruel and sometimes unwinnable games.
Top Image: Paramount Pictures