SAW X is another horror movie where John “Jigsaw” Kramer wants his victims to play or die. And yes, since it takes place between the first and second film in the franchise, Jigsaw is back. For real. The movie actually starts off quite heartbreakingly. Read our full Saw X movie review here!
SAW X is a new chapter in the SAW franchise, but with a story that takes us back in time. John Kramer AKA Jigsaw is still very sick due to a brain tumor. However, out of nowhere, there is suddenly hope. A doctor with highly experimental procedures and impressive results may be his salvation.
Unfortunately for our brutal “game player”, it turns out that this miracle is, in reality, an elaborate scam. Not only is he not cured, he has also lost a lot of money, and feels – of course, one is tempted to say – compelled to create a series of lessons for those involved. And no, this is not a spoiler, but the plot itself, which also appears in the trailer.
Continue reading our Saw X movie review below. The movie is out in US theaters on September 29, 2023.
Heartbreaking background story
Unlike most other films in the SAW franchise (if not all of them), SAW X features an extensive backstory that takes up a good portion of the runtime. With this film, we get real insight into John Kramer’s life between the first and second movies in the franchise.
During this time, his view of humanity is destroyed to an even greater extent than what you see in the first film.
With a brain tumor and the associated death sentence hanging over him, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico. Here, a doctor must try to perform a risky and experimental medical miracle. However, it quickly turns out that John Kramer has been the victim of extensive fraud.
You don’t scam John “Jigsaw” Kramer, and take away his only hope, without paying the price. For John/Jigsaw, the price is having to play a game in order to continue living. Everyone involved in scamming him finds themselves in one of Jigsaw’s creative traps. Every single one of them must inflict physical pain on themselves (and endure the discomfort) to survive. Classic Jigsaw games.
Synnøve Macody Lund is awesome
For me, Saw X absolutely hit the jackpot with the casting of Norwegian Synnøve Macody Lund (Ragnarok). She plays Dr. Cecilia Pederson, who is leading the very experimental miracle cure that turns out to be a hoax. Rarely have we seen such a defiant victim in a SAW movie.
Dr. Cecilia Pederson laughs at both the methods used by Jigsaw and even his catchphrase. She is cold and cynical in a way that Jigsaw can’t actually match. After all, he wants to teach people a lesson. Dr. Cecilia Pederson just wants to get rich. Plain and simple!
From start to finish, Synnøve Macody Lund is the actor who delivers the most stable and believable performance. She is the true villain of the movie, which is kind of nuts in a SAW movie. Jigsaw is the Avenger in SAW X, and this time around the people he is forcing to play his games, have done truly despicable things. Yet, Cecilia is just so cool and calm that I was almost rooting for her.
It almost seems like Jigsaw and the Doctor could make a great team. If their moral codes were even remotely similar, that is.
Even actors age
Although it is absolutely wonderful to see both Tobin Bell back as John Kramer (aka “Jigsaw”) and Shawnee Smith as his assistant and student, Amanda, it has a big challenge built in. The two actors were also in the very first SAW from 2004 and had a lot of screen time in SAW II from 2005.
In other words, they played these characters almost 20 years ago.
The challenge with SAW X is that chronologically, it takes place between the first and second movies in the SAW franchise. However, the actors have (surprise surprise) aged chronologically in real life. As human beings do.
Sure, Tobin Bell plays a terminally ill person, which can help explain his aged look somewhat. And yes, Shawnee Smith plays a character who has been a drug addict and was rehabbed after surviving her Jigsaw challenge.
But still, it seems brutal to get an actor who is now 54 years old (probably 53 when the film was shot) to pretend she is 20 years younger. They try with restrained facial movements and maybe also some CGI, facial prosthetics, or other effects.
I say “maybe” because it doesn’t work.
I have nothing bad to say about Shawnee Smith’s acting because she delivers a solid performance. After all, she knows this character inside and out by now. It’s just very strange to me that more hasn’t been done to visually ensure the two actors look like they did around the first two films.
Admittedly, I did re-watch the first two SAW movies in preparation for the SAW X press screening. But if we know horror fans (and we do!), many will surely be doing the same. Consider this a recommendation to not re-watch the first two movies just before watching this one. If you want to avoid being distracted by the fact that actors also get older to look at after 20 years, anyway.
Watch SAW X in theaters!
In the SAW X trailer, you see some of the victims and games/traps that are part of the story. However, there are also some scenes in the trailer (at least one of the official trailers) that are not in the movie. This means the movie does evolve a little differently than what you might expect from the trailer.
It doesn’t make much of a difference in the end. I just always think it’s weird when scenes from the trailer aren’t in the movie.
The director of this tenth SAW movie is Kevin Greutert. He also directed directed SAW 3D and SAW VI. In addition, he has been the editor of most movies in the franchise. Yes, starting with the first movie. He was also an editor on movies such as The Strangers (2008), Cobweb (2023), and yes, also on SAW X.
I don’t always think it’s great when someone is both director and editor, and this movie might have been better for having another editor to tighten it up a bit. This is the longest movie in the franchise!
I personally felt SAW X was strongest in the first half. Which is before all the gameplay begins. The ending becomes too long-winded. Yes, there are creative traps (as always!), but it also becomes predictable and forced. No real room for surprises despite such a long runtime.
However, yes, there is an end-credit scene. Do stick around for that one, which is a scene that only serves to confirm a suspicion you’ll probably already have.
The script was written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger. The two have written many horror films together. Including Jigsaw (2017) and the rather hideous Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021). But also Piranha 3D and 3DD.
Overall, I did find SAW X to be better than what I expected. And it is certainly better than many other SAW movies. Still, it could easily have been better, so it’s a shame that it isn’t. However, the bottom line is still that if you’ve enjoyed the franchise in general so far, you should go watch SAW X. And then go home and rewatch the very first SAW movie and remember how it all began!
SAW X is premiering exclusively in theaters on September 29, 2023.
In Theaters: September 29, 2023 (USA)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writer: Peter Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernandez, Joshua Okamoto, Octavio Hinojosa, Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Michael Beach
John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back. The most disturbing installment of the Saw franchise yet explores the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. Set between the events of Saw I and II, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer – only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, the infamous serial killer returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through devious, deranged, and ingenious traps.