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Review: Saw X (2023)

Saw X (2023)

Directed by: Kevin Greutert

Premise: Set between the events of Saw and Saw II, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) undergoes an experimental cancer treatment only to discover that he has been defrauded by con artists. Kramer puts his torturous skills to use.

What Works: Saw X is the tenth entry in this series and the filmmakers distinguish this installment. The best Saw sequels focused on character and the filmmakers of Saw X travel back to an earlier moment on the timeline to insert a side story with a personal edge. At this point, John Kramer has adopted his Jigsaw persona but the possibility of a cure makes Kramer doubt his methods and motives. That hope comes crashing down and Kramer recommits to his torturous modus operandi. Saw X is in some ways a return to form for the series. Some of the traps in later films became overelaborate but there is a brutal simplicity to most of these set pieces. One of the key strengths of the early Saw films was the relationship between John Kramer and his acolyte Amanda (Shawnee Smith). That relationship is centered here and the cat and mouse chase between Kramer and Amanda and their victims pays off in a satisfying way in the ending.

What Doesn’t: John Kramer is one of the most interesting horror villains in part because he doesn’t see himself as sadistic. Kramer envisions his work as a form of therapy but the filmmakers of earlier Saw films were always conscious of the tension between Kramer’s motives and deeds. Saw X loses that thread. Kramer comes across as an unambiguous hero and the filmmakers lose some of what made the character interesting. As a sort-of prequel, Saw X does not change our understanding of Kramer or any of the other films and their subplots. It’s more of what we’ve seen before but generally done better.

Bottom Line: Saw X is among the best films in this series. It showcases many of the best elements of this series with a focus and viciousness and emphasis on character that distinguishes this installment.

Episode: #970 (October 22, 2023)