The Saw franchise has traveled in some very unexpected directions since its inception in 2004. The first movie, James Wan‘s directorial debut, was something of a mystery that became iconic for its twist ending. This ending, which introduced Tobin Bell’s John Kramer as a true horror icon, paved the way for a series of sequels to follow. This has now led us to the tenth film in the franchise: Saw X.
Fans have been understandably cautious about this new entry. After all, the last two attempts to revitalize the series – Jigsaw and Spiral: From the Book of Saw – didn’t meet expectations. Spiral wasn’t enough like Saw for fans of the franchise, and Jigsaw tried too hard to modernize the formula. Saw X, however, is a return to form albeit in a wonderfully unique way.
As mentioned, Tobin Bell’s John Kramer wasn’t properly introduced until the end of the original film. It would then be Saw II that actually fleshed out his character and explained his ideology to fans. It was the third film, Saw III, which officially killed off the character. He was then brought back by way of flashbacks for the remaining sequels, save for a photograph cameo in Spiral, while Saw X refreshingly brings John Kramer back front and center.
The film does this by taking place between Saw and Saw II. Interestingly, this gives the film another advantage, as it also features Shawnee Smith’s Amanda Young in a major role. She had a small part to play in the first Saw, while one of the twists in Saw II reveals she was working with Kramer. By Saw III, she’s also killed off, and it means we never had much time to see the two characters together.
This brings us back to Lionsgate‘s Saw X. The film has the opportunity to show these character dynamics without the need to save their reveals for a twist ending. This is one of the greatest strengths that Saw X has to offer. In fact, the film’s entire first act focuses entirely on Tobin Bell’s performance as he navigates life with cancer. It’s truly captivating and one might even forget that he’s something of a villain.
The lines in which Kramer is treated as a villain and a hero are blurred with this entry. Fans see his ideology on full display as he finds himself scammed. Kramer, hoping to find a cure for his cancer, is ultimately lied to by a team of fraudulent doctors and nurses. Of course, they made the mistake of scamming Kramer, who utilizes his iconic Jigsaw methods to place them in a number of gruesome traps.
As with previous entries, the traps are appropriately violent, and they’re certainly enough to make audiences twitch and look away. They lack the simplicity of the original film’s premise, in which two men find themselves locked in a bathroom, but they aren’t as farfetched as some of the later sequels would have you believe either. There’s a middle ground here and every trap is thematically fitting. The fraudulent doctors are forced to perform surgery on themselves and other horrible acts in an attempt to make them pay for what they did to Kramer and so many others with their scams.
Ultimately, it’s a movie that Saw fans will enjoy, and one that newcomers could watch to also become acquainted with the franchise. The addition of Easter eggs and occasional bits of fan service are great for eagle-eyed viewers, but it’s a return to a simpler plot and a simpler time that should have everyone happy. Especially with Tobin Bell‘s John Kramer and Shawnee Smith’s Amanda Young at the film’s center right where they belong.