The sadistic world of the Saw franchise is back again with Saw X, the newest installment in the long-running horror series. This time around, we follow the iconic Jigsaw Killer as he sets his sights on a new set of victims to put through his twisted games. Saw X is the 10th movie in the franchise that began back in 2004 with the original Saw, which helped kick off the torture porn subgenre. Now almost 20 years later, the series is still finding new ways to make audiences squirm with its gory traps and murky morality.
Chronologically, Saw X takes place between the events of the first two Saw films, giving it a bit of a prequel vibe. We get to see more of Jigsaw’s origin story as he responds to a terminal cancer diagnosis. Longtime fans will enjoy seeing franchise mainstays like Tobin Bell as Jigsaw and Shawnee Smith as his apprentice Amanda playing key roles once again. For those less familiar with the series’ convoluted timeline, the writers wisely keep things straightforward in this installment. The focus stays on Jigsaw and his victims of the moment rather than jumping around in time.
In this review, we’ll break down everything Saw X has to offer. From the overall plot to the signature trap designs, we’ll discuss how this latest entry compares to the rest of the films. Does it recapture the horrifying magic that made the original Saw so impactful? Or is the series running out of steam as it reaches its tenth chapter? Whether you’re a hardcore fan or just enjoy squirming at gruesome horror, read on to see if Saw X is worth a watch.
Following a Tragic Betrayal and Deadly Revenge
Saw X wastes no time setting up its core premise – John Kramer, known infamously as the Jigsaw Killer, has just been diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer. Given only months left to live, Kramer desperately seeks an experimental treatment from an underground clinic in Mexico. This black market medical team, led by the coldly calculating Dr. Cecilia Pederson, promises a miracle cure. However, they are secretly running a scam operation, bilking dying patients out of their money by offering false hope.
When Kramer realizes he’s been cruelly duped, his vengeance is swift and merciless. Using the clinic’s abandoned chemical factory location to his advantage, he traps Pederson and her associates in a series of his signature deadly games. Pederson and her team of swindlers must now struggle to survive Kramer’s nightmarish tests and traps if they hope to make it out alive.
The early scenes explore Kramer grappling with his impending mortality, bringing welcome depth to the Jigsaw character often missing from previous installments. We see him attend therapy sessions and even briefly entertain the thought that he may be cured. This glimmer of hope is what ultimately drives him into the hands of the despicable Pederson and her associates. Their scam gives him a purpose – to punish those who would rob others of hope and life itself.
Once Kramer pivots to revenge mode, the elaborate traps and twisted punishments kick into high gear. Five of Pederson’s hapless team members find themselves imprisoned in different areas of the factory. They must face off against the deadly traps that Jigsaw has meticulously constructed for each of them based on their roles in the medical scam.
The games range from perverse surgery-based mutilation to a grisly rope made of human intestines. Pederson herself ends up in the climactic face-off with Kramer, who forces her into a deranged imitation of the medical testing she subjected her patients to. All the while, Kramer’s loyal apprentice Amanda lurks in the shadows, helping him orchestrate the carnage.
Saw X separates itself from other sequels in the series by keeping the story stark and linear. There are no convoluted flashbacks or fractured timelines. Instead, we follow Kramer on his path of vengeance in clear order. This gives the film a more cohesive feel, while still delivering on the bloody trap action genre fans crave.
Of course, Jigsaw’s brand of justice is still morally twisted despite his victims’ despicable behavior. But Tobin Bell’s expanded performance as Kramer adds shades of sympathy to the character, especially in the early scenes grappling with his diagnosis. It’s a showcase for Bell and an acting showcase for the long-running series icon.
The straightforward plot allows the signature shocking trap sequences to shine even brighter. While still utterly gruesome, the elaborately constructed tests feel more cleverly tied to their victims’ sins this time around. All leading to the fittingly perverse final face-off between Kramer and the icy Pederson. Saw X balances its grisly sensationalism with some added emotional weight, making it one of the stronger late-stage franchise entries. Fans will surely relish this bloody condemned clinic setting and Kramer’s personal brand of poetic justice.
Morbid Meditations on Morality and Mortality
Saw X continues the franchise’s exploration of murky moral codes and vengeance while also digging into heavier themes of mortality. As Jigsaw confronts his own impending death, the film muses darkly on the fear of dying and how far someone is willing to go for a chance at survival. There are also moments of grim humor that hyper-analyze Kramer’s hypocritical worldview.
The core theme remains ambiguous morality and justified vengeance. Jigsaw still inhabits his own twisted version of justice, testing victims he deems guilty of unforgivable sins. But the script flips the perspective by making his targets undisputedly despicable swindlers this time. Audiences may find themselves uncomfortably understanding Kramer’s motivation, if not his methods. The film toys with these blurred lines, asking how good and evil are defined when both sides have blood on their hands.
Kramer’s desperate quest for a cure also highlights the inherent fear of death. We may root for Jigsaw’s nasty victims to fail his tests, but also sympathize with what drives him to such extremes. Saw X spends more time on this inner turmoil, provoked by Kramer’s diagnosis, than any previous installment. There is sinister poetry in exploiting that universal terror of the end.
Moments of dark humor act as an antidote against getting swallowed up completely by the macabre mood. Kramer’s hypocrisy as a terminally ill man obsessed with teaching others appreciation for life is ripe for satire. Scenes like a parody of upbeat music montages underscore the absurdity. Jigsaw imagines elaborately bloody traps even while dreaming of being cured. The line between his twisted morality and madness blurs amusingly.
The more coherent plot allows these thematic nuances to shine in a way the convoluted sequels didn’t always permit. Trapping the story chronologically in this specific chapter of Jigsaw’s life provides focus the endless flashbacks and forwards lacked. There is no convoluted mythologizing, just raw humanity. We have room to examine ideas like morality and the finality of death when not distracted by tangled time tricks.
While still unrelentingly gory, Saw X allows us to peer inside the method of Jigsaw’s madness like never before. Exploring the blurred lines between good and evil deeds, life and death, and vengeance and virtue. All while providing morbidly funny asides questioning Kramer’s own grasp on these concepts. The streamlined storytelling lets the graphic violence serve the themes instead of just shock value.
Tobin Bell Towers as an Iconic Horror Villain
It’s hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting the skin of Jigsaw as effectively as Tobin Bell. The actor’s expanded role in Saw X is a showcase for his nuanced take on the iconic horror villain. Bell adds shades of sympathy while still crucially maintaining the character’s creepy menace.
With more screen time and a wider range of emotions to explore, Bell sinks his teeth into the defining role. We get to see uncommon vulnerability from Jigsaw as he reacts to his terminal diagnosis. Bell portrays the anger and sorrow of this fate with convincing gravitas. Yet he’s careful not to sand away all the villain’s rough edges — this is still the diabolical engineer auditioning victims with his twisted imagination.
Once Kramer shifts into vengeance mode, Bell turns on the chilling charisma. His smug satisfaction in explaining the rules of his games to his victims makes the skin crawl. Bell’s infamously expressive voice caresses each syllable of Jigsaw’s philosophy. Every bemused, gravelly utterance feels like a verbal trap waiting to spring.
Yet even as Kramer relishes the carnage, Bell finds notes of grief and existential angst. There is a mournful monster here, one who perhaps knows his legacy will be drenched in blood. Bell allows glimmers of sympathetic humanity to pierce through the sadistic exterior.
Shawnee Smith also makes a welcome return as Amanda, Jigsaw’s fiercely loyal apprentice. She too adds dimension, showing conflicted glimpses of guilt amidst the callous violence. And as the icy villainess of the piece, Synnøve Macody Lund leaves a chilling impression. As Dr. Pederson, she matches Bell in her commitment to an outsized character.
Bell’s acting clinic is the highlight, but the ensemble brings weight to characters trapped in the outrageous circumstances. Unapologetically grimacing through cadaverous make-up and gore, they sell the high-wire tone. But in the end, like all these gruesome games, the film belongs to Tobin Bell and his singular embodiment of this landmark slasher icon. No bells and whistles needed – his hypnotically disturbing performance is enough to terrorize.
Grisly Spectacle Backed by Slick Production Values
From a technical perspective, Saw X delivers the series’ signature gore while showcasing some of its most polished production values. Director Kevin Greutert melds inventive style with the franchise’s gruesome expectations.
Greutert’s direction emphasizes atmosphere and tension amidst the carnage. Shadowy lighting and sickly green hues immerse us in the creepy locale. Clever camera angles within the traps place the viewer disorientingly in the victims’ shoes. The editing oscillates between frantic for trap scenes and more brooding in dialogue exchanges. Saw X maintains an energized pace even when plumbing psychological depths.
The elaborate mechanical traps are worthy successors to Jigsaw’s crazed inventions, full of gnarly surgical elements befitting the medical scam plot. While certainly gross, the contraptions feel more organically integrated than the convoluted saws of certain sequels. A particular standout centers sinisterly on a makeshift rope crafted from human intestines.
Makeup and visual effects also impress by realistically rendering gruesome consequences. And graphic as it may be, the gore ultimately services the story instead of just provoking shock value. Even at its most intense, Saw X displays more artistic flair than exploitation.
Greutert balances the physical spectacle with quieter character moments. Dramatic sequences like fantasy montages and therapy sessions round out Kramer and Amanda with surprising nuance. And while light on time-hopping, effective flashbacks remind us of prior key events. The polished craftsmanship shines brightest through variated set pieces and pacing.
By blending dramatic themes, psychological depth, and expertly staged gore, Saw X distinguishes itself from lesser franchise entries. The technical prowess on display elevates the B-movie concept with genuine directorial vision. While certainly visceral, it never loses sight of character motivation and development. Fans will appreciate the added production value of a thoughtfully constructed callbacks and expanded mythology. The well-oiled blend of style and excess makes Saw X a late stage slasher highlight.
Returning to Franchise Roots
As the 10th installment in the marathon Saw series, it’s only natural to compare Saw X to its predecessors. Overall, it harkens back to what worked best in the early iconic chapters while still evolving the formula. Fans of the core characters and visceral thrills should welcome this solid late-stage sequel.
By spotlighting Jigsaw himself, played masterfully once again by Tobin Bell, Saw X mimics the original Saw’s twisted cat-and-mouse game. The stripped-down plot and focus on Kramer’s motives mirror the straightforward setup that first hooked audiences. Free of tangled time tricks, it recaptures the claustrophobic trap intensity many fans found lacking in recent films.
However, the evolution is clear in the slicker production values, expanded mythology, and emotional depth beyond just extreme gore. Saw X displays a visual polish while still delivering brutal, cringe-worthy carnage. And Bell’s sympathetic performance proves Kramer has untapped layers despite his monstrous actions. So this is no mere rehash, rather the best of old and new.
The more coherent timeline lacks some of the head-spinning twists and turnarounds that became trademarks of the nuttier sequels. But convoluted continuity often distracted from the core draw: elaborate death traps and a creepy moralistic villain. By going back-to-basics in a polished package, Saw X offers a recharged viewing experience.
As the 10th gruesome outing, fatigue may have set in for some fans. But by highlighting Kramer and the psychological themes around mortality, Saw X breathes new life into things. Bell’s acting and the sadistically clever contraptions distract from any been-there-done-that feeling. It may come across formulaic to outsiders, but franchise devotees will find much to appreciate in the blood-soaked return to form.
Saw X proves the series still has fresh limbs left to sever. It trims away the clutter and bloat that grew as the sequels piled up. Sharpening its focus to the magnetic Bell and human questions of morality, life and legacy. Anchored in the franchise’s gory glory yet hinting at the grim potential still untapped.
A Strong Revival for the Long-Running Horror Franchise
In the end, Saw X stands as one of the more cohesive and polished sequels in the latter era of the series. By stripping away convoluted mythologizing and focusing on Kramer, it recaptures the fundamental appeal. Tobin Bell gets room to multidimensionally expand his iconic horror villain. And the story clearly builds personal stakes around his vengeful mission.
For casual viewers, Saw X offers a decent entry point with its direct narrative. The heightened production values and Bell’s performance make it engaging even without intricate franchise knowledge. Of course, loyal fans will get more of the in-jokes, references, and world-building details. But the film finds a good balance between recycling familiar elements and introducing new dynamics to the formula.
Some may find the straightforward plot lacking the wild twists of earlier films. But it’s a small price to pay for more cohesion and Weight given to themes of morality and mortality. In the end, the crazy traps and gruesome tension take center stage as they should.
After diminishing returns and convoluted myth-building bogged down later sequels, Saw X gets back to basics. The formula still works when well-executed. And this chapter suggests, even after ten installments, the sinister world of Jigsaw retains the power to horrify. By highlighting Tobin Bell’s talents within a polished package, the franchise shows it still has juice left in the tank. Saw X carves out a bloody good time for both casual audiences and die-hard gore hounds alike.
Saw X is a satisfying return to form that re-energizes the long-running series by spotlighting Tobin Bell's talent and getting back to the straightforward formula that made the original so impactful. Some convoluted franchise trademarks are missed, but the increased coherence lets the gruesome spectacle and themes shine.
- Tobin Bell gives an expanded and nuanced performance as Jigsaw
- More coherent plot compared to convoluted sequels
- Creative and gruesome trap designs
- Explores themes like morality and mortality more deeply
- Polished directing, cinematography and editing
- Shawnee Smith entertaining as Amanda
- Some dark humor lightens the macabre tone
- Satisfying focus on core characters like Jigsaw and Amanda
- Lacks some of the crazy plot twists of earlier sequels
- Story drags a bit in the final act
- Some loose ends are left unresolved
- May feel formulaic and repetitive for some viewers
- Less interconnected mythology compared to other sequels
- High gore level still limits mainstream appeal