Set between the first and second parts, the tenth part of the infamous horror film series “Saw” tells the story for the first time directly from the inner life of a horror icon, whose early death once did quite a bit of damage to the franchise. That makes SAW X surprisingly one of the best films in the series.
OT: Saw X (USA/MEX/CAN 2023)
That’s what it’s about
John Kramer (Tobin Bell) aka Jigsaw has just played his first game. Now he is heading to Mexico after a shocking cancer diagnosis. There he hopes to undergo experimental medical treatment for recovery. The hope for a miraculous cure drives him. But instead he discovers that the entire operation is a diabolical fraud and that his supposed helpers are nothing but charlatans. The infamous serial killer returns to his work with a new goal in mind: he turns the tables and brings the fraudsters to justice in his own devious and sophisticated way. He receives support from his former victim Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who will give the doctor Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) and her assistants torturous hours…
If you follow the “Saw” series from its first film in 2004 to part 7 in 2010 not can blame, then that she has always remained true to herself. The focus on nasty torture traps that are supposed to test the will to live of their victims, embedded in a thriller plot that gets more and more elaborate and constructed over time, has for many years (and just in time for Halloween) always offered what fans have expected from it since Part 2 at the latest . Seven years after the supposed end of “Saw 3D – Perfection”, the studio suddenly seemed to miss the always reliable income from the franchise. So the Spierig brothers, Peter and Michael, known for films like Daybreakers and Predestination, were tasked with continuing the Jigsaw saga. It didn’t hurt its success (the film, simply titled “Jigsaw,” made back ten times its production costs), but the reviews around the world were devastating. No wonder: In the story, which was more outrageous than ever, not even the torture traps, which were harmless here, could become a highlight. And Tobin Bell’s brief appearance as John Kramer bordered on cheeky. His complete absence in the new edition “Saw: Spiral” seemed even more consistent. The realization that Kramer has long since developed into a modern horror icon is likely the have been the cornerstone for the development of “Saw X”. Here, for the first time, he can take center stage in a way that the character not only deserves, but has always given. And lo and behold: relying on the emotional connection with the main character works even if he is a brutal torturer. This is the first time that the “Saw” series really succeeds in evoking a moral dilemma that the previous films have all presented but have never been able to implement in a forceful way.
The torture trap from the film poster is actually used – if only in John Kramer’s imagination.
Anyone who fears that “Saw X” will be served more character drama than torture horror need not worry at this point. The first third of the film is closer to John Kramer than usual and tells the events primarily from his personal perspective. The audience still makes their first contact with one of his famous traps after about a quarter of an hour. The device that is also used for the film poster, in which the victim’s eyes are sucked out of the skull at high pressure, only works in Kramer’s imagination. As a viewer, you still get to see the result in full length. In addition, this scene gives us an even more detailed insight into John Kramer’s shifted understanding of morality: When he watches a nurse appear to be grabbing a patient’s valuables, Kramer mentally rehearses the same trap, just to think about it immediately to be discarded again when the prospective victim puts his prey back. Of course, this only creates a limited amount of sympathy for the trap designer, but it gradually reveals his way of thinking, which in the previous films was primarily based on vague monologues. Even a brief moment on a park bench leaves an impression: As a result of his supposedly successful cancer operation, John Kramer ends his plans for another trap and throws the piece of paper with the sketch in the trash. Subtle is different. But in the “Saw” context, such scenes are enough to create a comprehensible, well-rounded picture of the Jigsaw killer so that you can root for him. And this is just a representative of all those people who have already become victims of fraudsters, charlatans and self-proclaimed faith healers.
“The first third of the film comes closer to John Kramer than usual and tells the events primarily from his personal perspective. The audience still makes their first contact with one of his famous traps after about a quarter of an hour.”
In the previous films, the Jigsaw Killer chose his victims based on their social, character or criminal misconduct. The greatest expansion of this came in “Saw VI,” when it took on people who are allowed to decide whether to approve treatments for health insurance – and who once rejected John Kramer’s. In theory, this experimental setup could have triggered similar, ambivalent emotions as “Saw X”. But the connection between the morally questionable behavior of the victims and their influence on Kramer’s life remained a mere assertion in “Saw VI”. This time we get everything. From the highly reprehensible methods of the supposed healers to their playing with the hope of cancer patients to John Kramer’s maximum despair, which once again finds its outlet in the creation of a sick torture game. The fact that screenwriters Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg (who wrote the scripts for the two previous films together) confront the audience with the sadism of the Jigsaw Killer early in the film can also be interpreted as a kind of reminder: just don’t sympathize with him too much A man who, although he became a pitiful victim of fraud, nevertheless brought no less pain and suffering into the world with his questionable methods of showing people the value of their existence. “Saw Whether we actually sympathize with him is entirely up to the audience. Tobin Bell had the necessary gravitas to fill such a controversial character (“The Company”) always has.
Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), former survivor of the Jigsaw Killer, essentially apprentices with John Kramer.
For viewers who are less interested in character development, the second half of the film offers exactly what they are used to from the “Saw” series from part two onwards. Without anticipating the entire experimental setup (and the – typical of the franchise – final and unfortunately quite predictable twist), director Kevin Greutert, who was already responsible for “Saw VI” and “Saw 3D – Perfection”, follows familiar paths. Together with cameraman Nick Matthews (“Mob Land”) He first creates a more than clichéd image of Mexico – including a dark yellow color filter. The film was actually filmed at original locations anyway. When the action finally shifts to the four walls of a disused factory building, the typical “’Saw’ look” emerges. Overall, it all looks higher quality than the first films in the series in particular. However, this does not detract from what is known from the models Grittines. The depiction of the traps themselves is also back to basics. The elegant restraint of the last two franchise entries makes Greutert forgettable. As usual, it gets bloody, greasy and really disgusting on the soundtrack. However, there is hardly any risk of indexing, as has been the case with most of the “Saw” films in their unabridged versions, with “Saw X”. On the other hand, the traps here do not have the hints of perversion that “Saw III”, “Saw VI” and “Saw V” had in particular. “Saw And with the foreknowledge of the upcoming events from “Saw II” to “Saw 3D – Perfection”, the film also holds one or two things Easter eggs ready. Ultimately, all that matters is that John “Jigsaw” Kramer finally gets the attention he deserves after his early departure from the series. His performance has simply had too much of an impact on modern horror cinema.
Conclusion: Thanks to the focus on John Kramer alias Jigsaw, the brutal “Saw rooting for his victims, is more present here than in all previous films, in which this was only an assertion.
“Saw X” can be seen in USA cinemas from November 30, 2023.