The long-winded “Saw” franchise has decided to go back to basics. Is entry number ten the one to bring back the spark? We find John Kramer front and center, where his health is rapidly declining due to brain cancer. He travels to Mexico in hopes of a long-shot cure with a risky medical surgery. But when the procedure is revealed to be a scam, John uses what strength he has to bring the proponents of the scam to justice in a game of his unusual methods.
The “Saw” franchise has often been a mixed bag for me. While I find the premise of John Kramer’s philosophy intriguing, the gratuitous violence and gore has always kept me at arm’s length. If the franchise had leaned more into the mystery of each story more and less into the torture, I believe “Saw” would have had more mass appeal. “Saw X” brings everything franchise die hards will enjoy. I’ll admit that I was even intrigued with the story. John (the Jigsaw killer) has never been the forefront of any movie. His menacing presence has always been a wonderful aspect of the films, but only in smaller doses. Here, it’s his film. We see John in a more intimate perspective, where his persona ailments and struggles are highlighted. This helps the audience understand how he views the world and where his value of appreciating life comes from (demented as it may be). I appreciated that the filmmakers thought to flesh out his character and craft a story that was this relatable. Cancer touches someone in every family, so having real life stakes added an emotional element absent in other “Saw” films. What’s interesting is that John isn’t even the villain of the film, but rather the horrible people who drew up the phony operation. What’s worse, they have done this to countless people! Never did I think rooting for Jigsaw would be a reality, but the filmmakers managed to make us do so here. Strange how the tides have turned.
Tobin Bell turns in his best performance to date as Jigsaw. I’m glad the “back to basics” approach allows Bell to showcase each element of John’s character. I’ve always believed that horror movies work best when the villain is interesting. Bell is certainly up for the task and I enjoyed seeing him back. Shawnee Smith also returns as Amanda, Jigsaw’s apprentice. She’s pretty good here as the material makes her dynamic with John more interesting. I’ll also give credit to Synnove Macody Lund as the leader of the fake medical group. She is absolutely ruthless and conveys a menacing demeanor very convincingly. A foe worthy of the great John Kramer!
The film feels like an original “Saw” film, abandoning the convoluted lore surrounding flashbacks and far-fetched planning for a simple story. Certain aspects of the later entries are there, but fans of the series will love the simple approach featuring more Jigsaw. The cinematography creates a grimy feel which worked for the story. The traps are also simpler and more believable, which is nice considering it made this game feel more personal for John. Also, strap in for a crazy twist ending that is probably one of the best in the franchise. It definitely caught me by surprise. I’m not one for post credit scenes either, but this one was great! In fact, it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever seen.
I believe the good aspects of “Saw X” are some of the best in the series, but the areas holding the franchise back are still present here. I’m surprised that this film is getting overwhelmingly positive critic reviews as opposed to the generally negative ones for this franchise. It has always been a more audience friendly series, but here both sides seem to agree. I don’t understand why this one has warranted such a gap between other entries. It’s not THAT different. Sure, there’s definitely more to chew on plot wise…but the illogical trap set up and plot holes still remain. As a viewer, there are still plenty of areas to overlook if the story is going to work. Abandoning logic and overlooking missing plot pieces are still aspects that hurt this film (as well as the others). How John was able to built, set up, and execute all of these traps in line with his plan was a huge stretch. His plan is another detail oriented one that must be perfectly executed to accompany the signature twist. Although I still found enjoyment and was able to abandon a certain amount of logic, my eyes were still rolling.
The grossness is still here (for better or worse). Fans of the series will love the creative traps and blood soaked demise of the perpetrators in the medical scam. This go-around made the traps a bit easier to accept, but I was still wincing and grinding my teeth as the traps were executed. I know this will be a compliment for some and criticism for others, but I’m in the latter of that statement.
“Saw X” is a surprisingly fresh entry in a franchise that has been beaten to death by repetitive sequels. The story is more engaging and the people in the traps feel more…deserving? I’m glad they went back to basics and gave fans more of John Kramer. He owns this movie and showcases why Jigsaw has been a horror icon for many years. While the flaws remain and illogical plot points hold it back, I’m confident fans will rejoice and proclaim this as one of the franchise’s best entries. There’s more gore, more traps, and another signature twist. Gore hounds will eat this up. But with such success, I’m sure we will be getting more sequels to come.