Released: September 28, 2023
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Renata Vaca, Joshua Okamato, Octavio Hinojosa
Saw X has landed in cinemas and if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why it’s called Saw X and not Saw IX because Spiral isn’t part of the Saw storyline. There’s no Jigsaw, there’s no Billy the puppet, so when did we start counting spin-offs in franchises? I’ll probably be mad about this for a while because I’m still bitter that Spiral even happened. Thankfully the latest installment has brought back John Kramer for a new game and I’m here for it. John can be a bit of a dick with his victim choices (he put Adam in the world’s shittiest bathroom just for doing his job, calling him a voyeur. Just a tad hypocritical of John considering he does the same thing on a grander scale!) but you can’t argue that he’s one creative genius when it comes to his traps.
Saw X takes place between Saw 1 and Saw 2. John Kramer’s cancer has progressed and he only has a few months left. One day while enjoying some fresh air and designing new traps, he runs into fellow cancer patient Henry (who he met in a therapy group) who is in remission thanks to an experimental cancer treatment in Norway. He gives John the name of the doctor and wishes him the best of luck. John looks it all up online and receives a call from Doctor Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) letting him know the next test group is in three months, but with John not having that kind of time left, Doc lets him know the treatment can be done in Mexico next week and they will cover everything from airport pickup to giving him a place to stay. Sounds too good to be true right? Every person he meets in Mexico is part of a giant scam to rob dying people of their money and John isn’t about to let them get away with it. With the help of Amanda and Detective Hoffman, he manages to put a new game together specifically for this team.
Normally I don’t pay attention to writers, and in part that’s because the main focus with any movie is always on the cast and the director, but since Covid and being burned by movies like Host and Dashcam, I’ve started to pay more attention. When I saw that the writers for Saw X were also responsible for Jigsaw and Spiral, I went into this screening with minimal expectations because while I loved Jigsaw, I hate Spiral to a degree that proves I might need anger management therapy. Jigsaw gave us a more mellow approach to the usual fast-paced chaotic storylines of Saw films while delivering some creative kills. Spiral on the other hand was like watching fanfic and the dialogue was just how many times Chris Rock could say “fuck” on screen. These movies couldn’t be further apart in quality. Thankfully, Saw X is well written and I can’t believe it’s taken nine movies for us to get a John Kramer story. Sure he’s in all of the other movies, but most of his personal story is told in small flashback sequences, with the victims always being the main focal point. The Saw films always made him feel cold and detached and now we finally have a story that’s all about John and it humanized him. He’s not just some ruthless “life coach”; he’s a guy desperately trying to beat Cancer. I felt bad for him this entire movie because all someone with Cancer wants is more time and here’s this group of assholes just seeing a piggy bank.
Possibly the scariest part of this whole movie is Amanda’s wig. I had to keep reminding myself she did have the butchered-pixie cut in Saw 2 but it was hard to look at. Something about Shawnee Smith did feel off though and I’m not sure if this is an acting issue because she hasn’t starred in much the last few years, or if this is part of her character seeing as it takes place between films where Jigsaw is still coaching her. She’s definitely not the confident hot-headed Amanda we see in Saw 2 and 3.
For anyone watching Saw just for the kills, the first one we see is pretty gnarly. I can quite happily watch someone cut off their own limbs but the second you show me anything to do with fingers or eyeballs I’m out. I wasn’t that excited by the main game itself, it wasn’t up to the usual A-grade engineering we’ve come to expect from Jigsaw but we have to remember he’s in a foreign country and working on something last minute so it’s still somewhat impressive he put this together in such a short time.
Overall this is a decent addition to the Saw franchise but hopefully 10 is a good number to end the franchise on, because just how much more can you milk it? Unless movie companies want to show us what Dr Gordon is up to and who his two helpers were in Saw 7, or if he knows about Logan Nelson (Jigsaw) because they could make a pretty good team with Logan working in the morgue, there’s just nothing left to tell us about John Kramer.
Film review by Katie Torrance
Saw X is now in cinemas across Australia via Studio Canal.
Grab your tickets online via Saw X Official Site.