It’s safe to say that not many movie franchises can go on to its tenth instalment but with so many, many horrible people in the world, it’s safe to say that the Saw gore-fest can bleed on forever. And with such an intricate web of continuity that links all the films together, the beloved horror-revenge series has allowed fan-favourite characters to return to the series after getting killed off, to revel in the new twisted traps that filmmakers have devised to torture characters and audiences.
And that’s what the latest movie is as after nine Saw films, with the last being 2017’s Jigsaw that was meant to wrap up the series, before we got the Spiral: From The Book of Saw (2021) spin-off, in comes Saw X – an instalment that is neither a prequel or a sequel to continue the storyline.
Like a twisted version of a neverending horror story, Saw X fits right in between the events of Saw (2004) and Saw 2 (2005), just as audiences were first introduced to serial killer and mastermind John Kramer, at the peak of his sickness – both literally and figuratively. For fans, this is the return of the big bad that they’ve been waiting for as actor Tobin Bell reprises his role as John, and, believe it or not, get really up close and personal with the man behind the traps for the first time in the franchise.
Audiences remember Kramer as a sickly and trusting old man who later seeks revenge on those who took away the one thing he had – hope, and somehow, underneath all that misery and anger, is a unique sense of humour that is sarcastic, witty and at times mean. Comic relief is perhaps something that viewers may not expect out of a demented psycho but the bouts of Kramer sassing his victims/players make it a fun watch. However, this results in a completely different tone that fans of the earlier movies might not resonate with.
The appeal of early Saw movies was simple. Round a bunch of bad guys, throw them in traps, and watch them escape or die. Frankly, Saw has never been a plot-dense series, regardless of the number of apprentices Kramer has gathered over the years to enact his devious plans. It does, given the franchise’s continuity, make it tough to follow for those who may not watch every single instalment, but still, most of us are only here to watch blood and guts spill out of human bodies.
Saw X’s main appeal is getting to know Kramer, who has, over the years, always had this aura of being twisted yet somewhat merciful man, so this personal focus on Kramer serves as a double-edged sword for audiences. You’ll either find the closeness to Kramer riveting as you’re getting to know an iconic character on a personal level, or you’ll rather sit impatiently waiting for the screams and gore to start.
That said, Bell’s performance adds a lot of heart to the film and this is perhaps the franchise-best performance the actor has given. Certain secondary characters also make the audience reflect on their own moral code and surprisingly, Saw X delivers a good amount of heart, and no not the bleeding kind but the sappy kind.
What has remained consistent though is the main reason why we love Saw movies – the traps and there are plenty to lose our minds over. Sadly, the ones in this instalment aren’t the most ingenious or unique, and it feels like the writers have run out of ideas to create inescapable traps that would maim one’s body beyond repair. It’s particularly disappointing for fans of gore with such high expectations for a beloved franchise like Saw, long-time fans of gore may leave the theatres dissatisfied.
One thing we can commend though, is that there is one new element added to the traps that no one – and we mean no one – can anticipate. We wouldn’t want to spoil it for viewers, but this element marks the first introduction in the series, and it overshadows the other surprising additions to the film, of the return of certain characters that were believed to be dead.
As an instalment, Saw X doesn’t necessarily add to the overall franchise, but it removes the end chapter that appeared earlier in the franchise and now leaves room for new sequels to follow. Fans might scream at the inclusion of comedy and heart, but maybe that’s how you put the fear in a new breed of audiences.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Saw X brings a surprising amount of heart and comedy to the gore franchise and features Tobin Bell’s best performance as the one and only John Kramer. Unfortunately, it lacked the splatter and horror fans know the movie for.
Story - 5/10
Direction - 6/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 6/10