REVIEW: “Saw X” breathes new life into a 20-year-old franchise

Tobin Bell returns as the coveted serial killer that dives deeper into his character

Courtesy of Variety
Courtesy of Variety

After 19 years, one would think studios and audiences have grown tired of the “Saw” franchise. Although the last few movies have been a financial success, their critical response has divided audiences. With “Saw X,” the filmmakers have finally figured out where to take this franchise and how to keep it fresh. *Spoilers ahead*

“Saw X” is directed by Kevin Greutert and follows Jigsaw killer John Kramer as he takes revenge on a group of scammers who have wronged him. Kramer taking revenge is nothing new for this franchise, but what makes this film stand out above the others is the worldbuilding and antagonist-centered plot. 

This is the first “Saw” film to take place outside of the United States. Taking place between “Saw” and “Saw II,” Kramer travels to Mexico so he can get a surgery that will remove his brain cancer. Shortly after the procedure, he realizes that the doctors did not perform a surgery and instead stole his money. This sends him on a path of revenge toward the doctors who scammed him

Tobin Bell has given spectacular performances as John Kramer throughout the franchise, but “Saw X” is his finest work yet. This is the first film where his internal and external pain is felt due to Bell’s commitment to the character. When Kramer finds out he has been scammed, it is the most heart-breaking experience in the series. Despite being a serial killer, Bell makes the audience want his character to succeed in his revenge.  

Shawnee Smith returns as Amanda Young after being absent from the past three films. Despite the lack of screen time in recent films, she returns to “Saw X” as if she never left. Her physical presence as a kidnapper and helper of Jigsaw adds a lot of horror to the events in the second act, and her emotional connection to Kramer shines the brightest in this film. These two aspects of her character are the most beloved in past films, so seeing them here was such a delight. 

After nine films, this “Saw” film finally centers on the antagonist of the franchise. Taking the horror franchise in a different direction is exactly what needed to happen to keep it going. With the wave of true crime documentaries and feature films in recent years like “Dahmer” and “Tiger King,” it was a breath of fresh air to see the psyche of a serial killer as inventive as Kramer.  

The most infamous aspect of the “Saw” franchise is the traps. In “Saw X,” the traps are better than ever. They give off uncomfortable and squeamish feelings due to the graphic violence necessary to perform the traps, more so than any of the other films in the franchise. The traps that stood out most were those involving barbed wire and a surgery.  

Another well-known feature of the “Saw” franchise is the twists. There are two main twists in “Saw X,” one of which is more effective than the other. Avid watchers of the “Saw” series will likely figure out how the movie is going to end as it falls in line with the prior films. That said, the twists worked for the story it was trying to tell and does not take the audience out of the movie despite one being predictable. 

The main issue with “Saw X” is its runtime. Although a longer runtime works for some horror movies, this movie took too much time to get into the main conflict of the film. The trailer shows how the story starts and where the characters are going to end up. If 10-15 minutes had been cut from the beginning of the film, this movie would have performed stronger. 

“Saw X” is a welcome addition to the long-running franchise. It takes the series in a unique direction while also leaving room for more films in the future. It is hard to imagine any “Saw” fan being disappointed in this. Make sure to stay for the mid-credits scene.  

Trevor Stucker (he/him) is a sophomore majoring in Applied Film and Journalism. This is his second year writing for The Campus Citizen.

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