Photo: Lionsgate

Saw X: A Good Turn For a Stagnating Franchise

6 mins read

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love — or rather, am unreasonably obsessed with — the “Saw” franchise, despite it not really deserving that sentiment. If you don’t know what “Saw” is, it’s an ongoing horror media franchise that began in 2004 with the original “Saw.” The series is best known for its “traps,” which are elaborate torture devices designed to “test” people, and of course, provide graphic kills. 

Fan or not, I’m the first person who will admit that the majority of the franchise just isn’t very good. Sometimes I enjoy it, quality notwithstanding — I love “Saw V” despite it being, all things considered, a not very good movie — and sometimes I hate it — “Saw 3D” is one of my least favorite movies of all time. It’s a soap opera in gory flick format; once you watch one, you’re along for the ride. 

When “Saw X,” the tenth (!) entry in the series, was announced, I looked upon it with caution. I didn’t care for the two previous entries (2017’s “Jigsaw” and 2021’s “Spiral”), so although I was going to watch it anyway, I didn’t have high hopes. When I actually watched it, when it was released at the end of September last year, however, I was pleasantly surprised. I’d wager that this is the best entry in the series in years, thanks to vastly improved writing and creative decisions.

“Saw X” is the first movie in the series to be from the perspective of the titular Jigsaw Killer, John Kramer. It is an interquel, taking place three weeks after the original movie. After sox movies of trying to shoehorn the canonically dead Jigsaw into the plot somewhere, I think throwing in the towel and bringing the character back in the form of an interquel is an improvement. It provides the chance for a closer look at the man’s life and his relationship with his apprentices. Tobin Bell is a mainstay of the series, and one of the highlights even at its lowest points. He’s an excellent actor, instilling Kramer with his trademark personality. 

A lot of the movie’s pathos falls upon Bell’s shoulders in order to make a serial killer sympathetic, but he succeeds with flying colors. His moments of happiness before his realization that he was conned, the pacing of the movie also helps with this. For a “Saw” movie, it has a very slow start, but it serves to set up the movie’s emotional stakes and make the villains sufficiently heinous. 

Speaking of villains, Kramer’s crop of victims this time around are a group of con artists who scam people with terminal illnesses out of their life savings and suffer the epic bad luck of picking a serial killer to be their latest prey. Although certain members of the team are more sympathetic than others, the cream of a crop of good performances is the leader of the pack, Dr. Celicia Cortez, played by Synnøve Macody Lund. She is delightfully wretched and absolutely enjoyable to watch. 

While we’re still on the subject of characters, Shawnee Smith returns as Amanda Young, Jigsaw’s apprentice whose popularity rivals the killer himself. Her quips serve as a touch of the corny levity that makes the series stand out to me, but she also has her own character conflicts too in the form of her disagreements with Kramer and her connection to one of the victims. Smith herself offers an entertaining performance as always.

Enough about the characters, though. Many people who watch the “Saw” films do so only for the traps, and this movie’s selection does not disappoint. They are some of the most visceral traps in series history, with creatively cruel setups that all follow a similar medical theme. Since all the characters are in a room together, it also allows for the other victims to talk to and try to interfere with the person in the trap, adding another layer of complexity. Spoiling as little as possible, my favorite is the first “real” trap.

I can only hope that the quality continues with the next installment, which is set to come out during fall this year. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog