The Saw series is one that’s filled with plenty of hits and also plenty of misses. At a certain point, the traps became the focus instead of the characters. Enter Saw X. The last we’ve seen of this series was Spiral: From The Book Of Saw. That movie wasn’t quite a sequel, but it’s still very much part of this series. Saw X brings back Tobin Bell as John Kramer, but the movie is set between Saw and Saw II. So it operates in a time period that’s still very fresh, even though this is the tenth movie in the franchise.
Through ten movies, it’s gone the way of so many other horror series. It becomes overbloated. We forget why we’re even doing things in the movie in the first place. It’s a stroke of genius by writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger. Returning to direct is Kevin Greutert, who brought us Saw VI and Saw 3D.
The most basic synopsis is that John Kramer is dying. His cancer is stage 4, terminal. He hears of a miracle cure led by a medical group that has to go around the world setting up shop, because Big Pharma wants to stop them. This takes the series from non-descript cities and brings it more to a location that is vibrant. Mexico becomes part of Saw X, not the other way around. John is promised a miracle cure through experimental surgery and a drug cocktail. He gets his help and goes on his way. That is, until he finds out that the entire thing was a sham. He’s been duped for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
John Kramer Is The Hero This Time Around
Saw X really operates as two halves. There’s the serene, almost beautiful first half. We get plenty to learn about John Kramer, the man. Sitting down and watching it, it almost strikes as an un-Saw-like movie. Then you get the realization that all of these people who screwed over John Kramer are going to get what they deserve. Make no mistake, the murderous serial killer Jigsaw is the hero of this story. The way the film presents it to the audience never verges on glorifying it though. We’re constantly reminded that John Kramer is no angel. The other characters get a good portion to shine as well. Shawnee Smith returns as Amanda.
It’s astounding how the Saw series continues to buck the trend of de-aging people or even really attempting to make it seem like these characters are playing a movie that’s supposed to be set in around 2004. That’s a small quibble, but it doesn’t end up with horrifying looking de-aged people, at least. The medical “practitioners” who wronged John Kramer are played by Synnove Macody Lund, Octavio Hinojosa, Paulette Hernandez, and Renata Vaca. Near the end of the first half, it’s when the victims are rounded up. It’s an incredibly pleasing moment to see the real versions of these liars.
More On The Traps
You’re not here to hear about the narrative or the characters, though. We’re all here to hear about the traps. That’s what Saw is known for. What kind of devilishly evil thing can John Kramer set these people up in that’ll mirror the act that they wronged someone with. It’s safe to say that the traps in this film are some of the series’ best. Nothing hits the reverse bear trap or needle pit level, but they’re all a baseline of “squirm in your seat”.
The advertised “eyeball” trap isn’t even the most brutal of them all in the film. Each of them is given the attention to detail that fans crave. They’re demonic structures that will make you squeeze your muscles just a bit tighter after watching.
Saw X Is Easily The Best Sequel Of The Bunch
Between giving John Kramer more of a backstory and human element to his story, Saw X just makes for the best movie of the sequels. It gives you as an audience a villain that somehow makes JIgsaw into a hero. They’re despicable and outright mean. What can be worse than promising terminal cancer patients a new lease on life and selling them a bunch of lies? Well, you’ll see just what can be worse than that with Dr. Cecilia Pederson. The movie humanizes John Kramer but doesn’t ever glorify him. It walks a nice line making him into a heroic figure but still making the audience remember this dude is not a good guy.
With all that said, Tobin Bell is supremely awesome here as John Kramer. He improves on the role, giving audiences someone to root for, because the opposition is so much worse than he is. The moment where the film flips from him being happy and almost joyous about beating cancer only to take that away from him (and us) is heartbreaking. Bell matches that heartbreak with an equally heartbreaking performance on screen. Once he gets back in the saddle with the traps, the movie takes off.
Fans of the Saw series will eat Saw X up. It gives them easter eggs, awesome moments of levity, humor, emotion, and all the traps and violence that you’d ever want. Saw X is easily the best of the Saw sequels and it’s not particularly close.
Make sure to stick around after the credits for a special scene that long-time Saw fans, will love.
Saw X releases in theaters on September 29th.
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