The Saw franchise is known for its inventive traps and dangerous devices that provide some of the most WTF moments in horror film history, but there’s one trap that sticks out above all the others - the Saw II needle pit. It’s dirty, it’s gross, and oh yeah, it’s full of thousands of syringes.
In the film, former user Amanda is thrown into the pit, and she has to search through the syringes for a key. It’s like watching a nightmare, and it’s hard not to imagine yourself in her place, but behind the scenes, the needle pit was far less horrifying.
This isn’t to say that one of the most gruesome moments in the Saw franchise was a walk in the park - far from it - but according to the cast and crew, the set for Saw II was fairly relaxed. While actress Shawnee Smith had to dive into a pit of syringes and goop for an entire day, the real work was in constructing the needle-filled monstrosity.
How many needles are needed to fill a pit? More than you'd think. In order to create the most gruesome needle pit possible, the crew had to fill the pit with over 100,000 syringes that were painstakingly altered in order to make sure they wouldn't do actual harm to actress Shawnee Smith.
The effects crew had people working for days to remove the needles from the syringes before replacing them with fiberoptic needle tips that looked like the real thing. Initially, they thought that 40,000 syringes would work, but that wasn't enough, so they added 20,000 more to the pile. They ended up with 120,000 syringes, foam peanuts, and a bunch of gunk to make the pit look all the more gross. If you look closely at the syringes in the pit, many of them don't even have needle tips. This wasn't an oversight, but rather something to save time.
Obviously, the makers of Saw aren't in the business of hurting their actors, just the characters, and in all actuality, the needle pit was a fairly safe place to be. Not only were the needles replaced with fiber optic tips that looked like the real thing, but the syringes also sat atop a dense layer of Styrofoam padding.
The walls of the pit were made of crash pad material, which is what stunt people use when they're landing, so if Smith slammed into the walls she wouldn't hurt herself. From the behind-the-scenes footage, it looks like the pit was easy to move around in. Crew members are seen walking around in the pit with ease, and even though it was incredibly safe, it doesn't look like people were aching to jump around in there.
In order to make Smith look like she suffered severe needle damage after falling into the pit, the special effects team not only used prosthetic anchor plates with plenty of makeup to make it look like she had needles jammed into her skin, but they also built a prosthetic arm that they could use in some of the close-ups.
The prosthetic anchors dotting Smith's arms, legs, and back were attached to actual needles to give the scene some extreme realism. In the close-up shots where Smith and her fellow captives are removing syringes from her arm, they're actually removing needles from a silicone arm. Rather than attach a fake arm to her, the SFX team simply had her hold her real arm behind her back while putting the prosthetic arm in frame. It's a simple effect, but it looks so good.
Everyone has seen a movie where characters have a ticking clock that they have to race, but more often than not, the scenes don't take place in the time allotted. They're either much longer than the given time or much shorter. Saw II does the opposite and carries out its needle pit scene in the two minutes that the characters are given by Jigsaw.
From the moment the clock starts counting down, Smith is thrust into the pit and tasked with finding a key in the needles, although the task was meant for a different co-captive. Even though there are some slow-motion sequences and a couple of jarring cuts that go hand-in-hand with the Saw franchise, the scene is one of the few in film history that actually plays out in the time they say it's going to take.