Review: Saw X
A sick and desperate John Kramer 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.Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Renata Vaca, Steven Brand
Even as someone who generally finds themselves as a fan of the ‘Saw’ franchise (less so a majority of the films but more so it’s phenomenal lead villain and horror soap opera overarching narrative) I was skeptical of a tenth ‘Saw’ film going all the way back in the timeline and squeezing itself in between the first two, but when we found out the lead character would finally be John Kramer himself, I couldn’t help but be excited.
In the biggest directorial U-turn of the century, Kevin Greutert somehow hands us the best film in the entire franchise after originally ending it with the absolute worst. Whilst it retains the iconic score and stylistic editing choices that fans adore from the franchise, ‘Saw X’ reinvents the series by making it a slightly slower paced, character focused horror film that continues to cement John Kramer as one of the best and most intriguing characters in genre history. His corrupt moral compass and psychopathic tendencies truly take the forefront here by making him the focal point of the story, and forcing the audience to not only sympathise with him at times, but also make us care as we see his delusions from a completely new angle in a way that evokes the same perspective we get of Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’.
That’s not to say ‘Saw X’ is even remotely close to being that show’s level of good, because even as someone who utterly loved it I’d be almost as delusional as Jigsaw to go that far with it. From multiple lines of dialogue that make the film feel as if it’s still being written in the early noughties (with “I call that epic bad luck”, mostly flat side characters, and the constant use and reuse of character names being a prime example of the distractingly weak elements of the screenplay despite it being the most mature and well written in the entire franchise) to the handful of shots in this otherwise relatively well shot film that feel like a first year filmmaking student would shoot in college, not university, there are multiple issues the film has on a technical level that hold it back. As much as I adore the slower, more focused pace the film handles, there are moments in the first act that won’t engross casual viewers as much as it should, especially if you don’t care too much about John from the other films, and parts of the rest of the film strike an inconsistency between either moving too quickly or too slowly in specific sequences like the first trap of the main game beginning too tediously and the third ending too soon.
The practical gore effects continue to shine brightly here as they always have in the franchise, but the other key element of this series that has stood out in every film he’s featured in is once again Tobin Bell, who’s performance as the ever interesting John Kramer continues to excel and ensure his place in horror royalty remains unmoved even as he passes the age of eighty. Because of him, when the screenplay wavers I still found myself completely engrossed in the story at hand, and because of him, a film that could’ve been the franchise’s fourth utter failure in a row becomes the best it has to offer by a long shot excluding the original—which it may also be better than as well.
Ten films and almost two decades deep, ‘Saw’ is somehow the horror franchise that has found its footing once more and become a highlight of the century’s latest block of ten years above all others except the ‘Scream’ series, and if Tobin Bell can stick around alongside this surprising jump in quality and filmmaking, you can bet I’ll be seated for another seven film saga with John Kramer as the lead battling people with somehow even worse morals than his own.
4 / 5