I enjoy the SAW films. Now they do get progressively worse after the second film, yet they remain entertaining and packed with: gore, creative traps, quirky frenetic camera work and editing, a killer melody, scary morality, and crazy lore – which is SAW in a nutshell. After SAW 3D (or SAW VII), we thought the franchise is taking a break, but they released Jigsaw followed by Spiral. And while Jigsaw was a failed attempt to resurrect the juice of the series and an attempt to milk the legacy of the films, Spiral tried to be different and have a new perspective on the franchise – it was not bad, just ok. Then comes the tenth installment, second chronologically, and creates a somewhat fresh spin on the story and characters by being a character driven film that puts John Kramer front and center, telling a more personal story. The latest film is a satisfying entry in the franchise that is a number 1 contender for the best in the series, which is not saying much.
SAW X is a revenge film, taking its time to set up Kramer as a fully-fledged character and lead into the Jigsaw games. Here, the “players” are not driving the story like in other installments, but Kramer’s vendetta. They’re not people you sympathize with, and for the first time ever, the audience is put in Kramer’s shoes and we see the traps as an extension of Kramer’s psyche and sickness. This is compelling narratively, even though the film does not go the long way to give us more history about Kramer’s traps, being the Jigsaw killer, and his motives – which are explained in other films but here the film could’ve used them sincerely as his own story rather than gimmicky backstory flashbacks. SAW X could’ve functioned as a standalone film if it delved more into Kramer’s subjectivity and mind. Regardless, it still succeeds as SAW film that uses the gore and the traps and the concept for a new purpose.
Tobin Bell has incredible screen presence, and you really feel bad about him, to an extent – he carries a big part of the film. Your morality gets tested and your judgement gets a jolt of electricity. Shawnee Smith’s return as Amanda is exciting and will add more weight to rewatching the other films. The supporting cast did a great job at being tortured and screaming. Synnove Macody Lund is a good addition and plays a decent villain.
The film’s screenplay takes its time to build the story and yes, reading the synopsis gives away the first hour which plays out as a cancer drama but it is essential to take its time to make the second half of the film more impactful. The middle part of the film was really good as the traps were truly deranged and one of them made me shudder and make the weirdest face. The third act goes in a direction that I did not particularly like because it does not try much to be different and puts us back in the SAW formula. But, at the end, as a SAW fan, I was left satisfied. Now the film lacks in thrills and horror but it is more of a personal revenge story and I was fine with this aspect. Dude gets tricked and wants to give those who hurt him a chance to be absolved, for a price.
Visually, it harkens back to the earlier entries with the use of a similar palette and the frenetic camera work and editing that is a signature of the franchise’s form. I was not a huge fan of this, to be honest, as this film should’ve had a distinct identity. The film is set in the early 2000s but does not look like it is set in this time period.
In conclusion, SAW X is a satisfying entry in the SAW franchise that puts Kramer front and center and manages to tell a story the audience can connect to and still deliver on the gore and torture-derangement SAW is iconic for. If you’re a SAW fan, this one is definitely worth a watch!