Traps, twists, and terror are what fans will expect from a Saw movie, and the latest entry in the franchise delivers. Saw X, directed by Kevin Greutert (Saw VI, Saw 3D), is the tenth horror movie in the series, taking place before Saw II, but after the events of the original film. It is the first movie since 2017’s Jigsaw to feature Tobin Bell as John Kramer aka Jigsaw, after Spiral: From the Book of Saw moved away from the character. Joining him for his return is Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young, who hasn’t had a primary role in the franchise since Saw III.
The main plot of the movie was spoiled by the film’s trailer, which is unfortunate, as it is treated like a twist. So, if you don’t want to know the plot maybe skip further down. Saw X is a revenge story that sees John Kramer taken advantage of by swindlers who pretend to treat patients with cancer. Once he realizes that these charlatans have taken his money without treating him, he calls Amanda, and the pair start another game.
Twists and Turns in Saw X
If you are familiar with the Saw franchise, you probably know that half of the movies aren’t very good. You’re probably aware these movies can live or die by their twists, with the first arguably standing out as iconic. As I mentioned above, the main twist of the movie is spoiled in the film’s trailer. That said, it’s also pretty apparent that John gets scammed because we know when this film takes place and that he still has cancer after these events.
Thankfully there are more twists and turns to fall back on outside the original premise, but even then, they’re predictable. What makes this different from other entries is that the things that make it good, actually make it a worse Saw experience. For example, the film is completely linear outside of a couple of scenes. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a negative, but it impacts the pacing of an already bloated runtime of 118 minutes. On top of that, there’s no mystery surrounding the people in the game, and why they’re there. Without one of the main plot devices of the franchise, this film lacks suspense.
Does Saw X keep it fresh despite those issues listed above? Yes, barely, but I was clamoring for Saw XI by the time the credits rolled. Saw X is entirely character-driven, following Kramer for most of the film. We see him struggling with his illness and convictions, and ultimately, we see him fueled by revenge. Bell has never been better.
A Gory Mess
We can’t talk about a Saw movie without discussing the traps. Nearly every single trap in Saw X can hold its own with the traps that the series is known for. Without spoiling what it is, there’s an homage to the original movie with one of the traps that was a nice touch. If you are squeamish, this is not the movie for you. Saw X has victims cutting off limbs, draining blood, cutting brains, and, of course, dying. There’s plenty of blood and gore, so you shouldn’t be disappointed if you visit the theater for that.
The dialogue feels refreshing, with Amanda’s back-and-forth with the test subjects a highlight. But it does feel odd seeing the 54-year-old Smith play Amanda Young, who is supposed to be much younger. It’s not quite Robert De Niro in The Irishman, but it is odd. It’s also worth noting that while the test subjects weren’t given much to do, Synnøve Macody Lund killed it as Cecilia Pederson, the head of the scam. Pederson comes across as pure evil, so you are rooting for Jigsaw in Saw X.
A small gripe that I have is that when Kramer is in America, it looks like every other Saw movie, with a blue color palette. Of course, as soon as he goes to Mexico for treatment, for some reason, the world becomes tinted yellow. It’s such an obvious change that doesn’t serve any purpose outside of perpetuating a lazy stereotype. The lateral nature of the story simplifies the hectic editing that the Saw franchise is famous for. But, like the other films, the score complements the editing perfectly. I would argue that the only form of tension is the result of those two elements working in tandem.
The End of Jigsaw
If you’re a fan of horror movies, this might actually be the most accessible Saw, because of how much of the film is about the villain, John Kramer. But, if you’re familiar with the franchise, it might be too predictable, too long, and fall flat. Yet, Saw X does well enough with the characters, traps, and story, that it does fall on the side of being one of the better Saw movies. You can catch Saw X in theaters from September 29, 2023.