September 29, 2023 / Cineplex Pictures
Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Michael Beach
John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back. The most disturbing installment of the Saw franchise yet explores the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. Set between the events of Saw I and II, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer – only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, the infamous serial killer returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through devious, deranged, and ingenious traps.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Saw X brings Jigsaw back with a vengeance and deadly games for his victims that will make you squirm in your seat, but it is the strong performance of Tobin Bell and the more personal story that makes this one of the more impactful entries in the series to date.
Just before the series hits its twentieth anniversary next year, the Saw franchise has a new deadly game to unleash on fans with its tenth entry. While the underlying DNA of the series has not changed since the first film, technology has allowed Jigsaw’s traps to evolve and become more sadistic with each subsequent entry, and this film does not spare on the terrifying traps for the latest participants in Jigsaw’s game. Being the tenth film in the series, there is nothing that the filmmakers cannot throw at audiences that will catch them off guard, but director Kevin Greutert who previously directed Saw VI and Saw 3D, as well as editing the majority of the series, presents John Kramer in a new light that injects some new life into this long running horror series.
Set between the events of Saw and Saw II, John has accepted the fact that his cancer will kill him. But when he learns of an experimental surgery that could save his life, he travels to Mexico for the procedure. Though, during his recovery, he discovers that the procedure was a scam and that the medical team did not actually operate on him, merely stealing his money. Dead set on teaching these individuals a lesson, the medical team becomes the latest participants in Jigsaw’s game.
Unlike previous Saw films, we get to see a lot of John Kramer as an individual, not just as the serial killer known as Jigsaw. The first half of the film follows John and his search for a cure to his cancer, creating a heartbreaking character piece that makes you sympathize with John on a human level. For a series largely focused on gruesomely killing individuals, this was a welcomed change and primes the audience for the second half of the film which is what viewers expect from the series. With this more sentimental start and the crime committed by the medical staff, it gives a different feel to the second half of the film as you truly have no compassion for these individuals robbing the sick and praying on their false hope. I wouldn’t say anyone necessarily deserves to be part of Jigsaw’s games, but if there were any group of individuals that you may not feel badly for, it is the victims in this film.
The second half is the traditional Jigsaw game that audiences have come to expect from the Saw series, just without the secondary police investigation storyline that has been featured in most previous entries in the film. With the singular storyline, there was no signature, shocking twist at the end of the film as the plot is very linear, which was a slight disappointment personally as the twist was always my favourite part of the previous entries in the series. The traps themselves are gruesome yet simplistic in execution, avoiding the over the top traps that have plagued some of the weaker entries in the series. The eye vacuum trap featured on the film’s poster is gnarly, while there was one in the film’s second act that had me watching from between my fingers. The emphasis on practical effects to create the traps makes for a more horrifying viewing experience, giving them all a sense of urgency and true danger that the viewers can immediately feel while watching these scenes.
With a large role, Tobin Bell gives his best performance as Jigsaw to date. With the emphasis on John as an individual, Bell crafts a character that you instantly feel for, creating internal conflict within the audience once John kidnaps his victims and subjects them to his games. There is no Saw franchise with Bell, and hopefully the larger role he had in this film will continue in future sequels (because another film seems inevitable), as it was nice to have a larger presence from him in the film. Fans will enjoy seeing Shawnee Smith’s return as Amanda, and she builds a sentimental relationship with Bell that creates some of the film’s more tender moments, playing into the tone set by the film’s first half. The new cast (a.k.a. Jigsaw’s latest victims) are all fine, but they really are just cannon fodder without much substance to their role. Synnøve Macody Lund is the best new addition to the series as Cecilia, the doctor who scammed John, bringing a much needed venom and level headedness to the second half of the film.
While it does not cover new ground for the franchise, Saw X is a strong sequel that gives fans of the series more of what they want. With some grotesque traps for Jigsaw’s victims delivering the blood curdling horror fans expect from the series, Saw X proves that Jigsaw still has deadly games up his sleeve that audiences will enjoy in one of the series’s stronger entries, even if it is a more simplistic story than some of the series’s best films.