Witness the return of Jigsaw.
Saw X is a 2023 horror film directed by Kevin Greutert, written by Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, produced by Twisted Pictures, and distributed by Lionsgate. The film stars Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith. This is the tenth film in the Saw franchise. It was preceded by Spiral: From the Book of Saw, but acts as a direct sequel to Saw and a prequel to Saw II.
"I still have a lot of work that needs to be done." - John Kramer
As his brain cancer continues to spread, John Kramer is hoping for a miraculous cure. When a group of doctors offer to help, Kramer is given hope for the first time in a while. However, the treatment ends up being a scam, and Kramer decides to enact his revenge.
I'm not a huge fan of the Saw movies. But I was interested in this one, because they decided to bring Jigsaw back.
And I think that's the best part of this film. This is the first Saw movie where Jigsaw is our actual main character. And, on top of that, he's a bit of an anti-heroic protagonist. Jigsaw is the villain of the Saw franchise. He is a deranged psychopath. But Saw X absolutely makes you root for him. And that's fun. The first thirty minutes of the film are spent fleshing out where Kramer is in life. He isn't doing Jigsaw things. He's just living with cancer and waiting to die. It automatically makes him sympathetic, and you feel the betrayal when he learns that the cancer treatment was just a con. This is essentially Saw's version of a revenge movie, and that is definitely a fun and different route for this franchise.
I also feel like it gives Jigsaw more room to be an actual character. He's always been an awesome horror villain, but he's never really been fleshed out and given a full, tragic backstory. This movie develops him. We see the sadness of his life. We also see his limits. We see that he isn't relentless and has a weird set of moral values. He's still killing people. He's still crazy. But there's more nuance to his character here. And I really enjoyed that.
This is also the first time that the antagonist of a Saw film has not been the person setting the traps, but a person inside of the traps. I thought that was really, really interesting. We have an actual villain here who is more evil than John Kramer, and I think that's another thing that made him more of a sympathetic, tragic anti-hero. You absolutely despise our main villain here, which, in turn, makes this movie have more weight and feel more heartfelt.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but Saw X actually has a bit of a heart at its core. It's kind of a sad movie. You feel the moments of betrayal and the moments of victory. It's not a movie that will make you cry or anything like that, but it definitely tugs at the heartstrings a bit, which is absolutely different from any other Saw film. It makes this one stand out amongst the rest of the franchise.
I also really enjoyed the usage of Amanda Young here. She's another character in the Saw franchise who is just all sorts of insane. But, much like Kramer himself, Amanda is made to be a protagonist in this film. She has a ton of really funny moments inside of the film, but she also contributes to the weird emotional core of this film. She's incredibly likable despite being a psychopathic murderer here. She is incredibly polite to all of the victims while talking about these insane, horrific traps, and that just makes her both funny and charming. I really, really enjoyed what they did with her here.
As much as I appreciate that Saw X took a more character-oriented route with a solid amount of heart, this is, at the end of the day, still the tenth installment in an ex-saw-sting franchise.
I have some mixed feelings on the emotional core of this film. On the one hand, it's a surprising and unique thing to have in a Saw movie. It makes the film have a bit more umph than you'd expect. On the other hand, the emotions don't entirely work at the times that they are supposed to. You are rooting for John Kramer, but there are people in this film who are treated as the antagonists that do not deserve the fate that they receive.
What I mean by that is that Saw X does this annoying thing where the person inside the trap will be so incredibly close to completing the task that they must do to survive, but they don't finish it in the nick of time, so they have some horrifying and painful death. It makes John Kramer feel mean, and, since he is supposed to be the soul of this movie, it makes this movie feel mean.
I will never criticize a movie for adding a good emotional core, but it feels like Saw X exchanges some of the cleverness of Saw to just have more depth and emotion. I don't think the traps in this movie are very good. The best Saw traps are simple, terrifying traps that make you squirm. Saw X's traps are incredibly convoluted and don't make a ton of sense. You have to suspend more disbelief in Saw X than you usually do in a Saw movie. I don't think these traps would work in real life. The things that these people have to do to survive are impossible. They would either pass out trying to mutilate themselves or they would die from excessive blood loss or some other complication.
This movie also has plot points that it just picks up and drops. There's a specific one where Amanda is struggling with having to put a specific victim in a trap, but they are too subtle about it. It's implied why Amanda is struggling with this, but it's never fully explained, and there's never a payoff. There's a few plot lines like that. They aren't huge, but the dangling plot threads are really, really annoying.
As I said at the beginning of the sour section, at the end of the day, this is still the tenth installment in a nearly twenty-year-old horror franchise. There's been a lot of Saw movies, and, while this one is definitely more emotional and stands out amongst the rest of the films in the franchise, it still feels aged. You can still feel the exhaustion of this franchise. As a matter of fact, I thought Spiral did a better job of doing something different with this franchise than Saw X. It's a cool movie. It's fun. But I've never really been super into this franchise, and this film just reaffirmed that I'm tired of it.
Final Thoughts and Score
Saw X is definitely a better and more unique film in the Saw franchise. Is it worthy of an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes? I don't think so. I'm tired of this franchise, and Saw X continues my exhaustion with it.
However, I will go Savory here. Age range is 17+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 7/10
Directed by Kevin Greutert
Rated R for strong bloody violence, frightening themes and images, language, thematic elements
Released on September 29, 2023
1 hour and 58 minutes
Tobin Bell as John Kramer / Jigsaw
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Synnøve Macody Lund as Cecilia Pederson
Steven Brand as Parker Sears
Renata Vaca as Gabriela
Octavio Hinojosa as Mateo
Paulette Hernández as Valentina
Joshua Okamoto as Diego
Michael Beach as Henry Kessler
Isan Beomhyun Lee as The Custodian