Tuesday 24 October 2023

Saw X (2023)

I think everyone knows what this is about by now, but stay far away from reviews if you’re a complete newcomer to the series. Everyone else will already know what they’re going to get.

Although this is called Saw X, it could easily have been called Saw 1.5. John Kramer aka Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dealing with a cancer diagnosis that seems terminal. There’s hope on the horizon though, a cure mixing therapy and unapproved drugs that means traveling to Mexico. Kramer heads there, pays his money, and starts to hope that he will be cured. As those who have seen the rest of the movies in this series will already know, there’s actually no cure. Realising the whole thing was a scam, Jigsaw plans to play a game with those who have made money preying on people in his situation.

With a number of inventive traps and a handful of potential victims, mainly people who you could easily view as deserving of their fate, Saw X is a satisfying extra instalment in this long-running franchise. There’s some good gore, an attempt to keep this rooted in the convoluted and dense continuity already established, and a finale that reveals a couple of extra details while the familiar music starts to build and overwhelm your sound system.

Director Kevin Greutert seems to be a good choice for helming these movies, having helped to bring things back on track with the previous instalments he directed, and the script, written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, manages to reframe our iconic horror villain as the hero of the hour without making it too intolerable. Despite the actions of various characters in the series, Jigsaw himself has always tried to set up his games with a strict set of rules (the main one being that anyone who survives is free to live their life with a renewed appreciation.

Bell is as good as ever in the main role, helped by the fact that he was already of a certain age when he first played the character, meaning he still looks the same nowadays and just has to cough and look ill in between his deadly lessons in morality. It’s a bit harder for Shawnee Smith, reprising a key role, to look younger than her years, but I appreciate that the makers of the film don’t try anything too silly to signify her youth (e.g. having her skateboard onscreen and talking in tiresome “coolspeak”). Smith does as well as Bell in terms of playing her character in line with how viewers know her from this time period. As for the potential victims, naming them in any kind of order might give an idea of their importance in the grand scheme, which is why I will just name Synnøve Macody Lund, the head of the whole operation and the one that we all know must be due a very special fate before the end credits roll.

The ridiculousness of everything is once again offset by the creativity and nastiness, a few moments here made me properly wince and wish for it to move away from the impressive gore effects, but it’s a shame that the pacing isn’t as good as it needs to be, although that is affected by the foreknowledge and familiarity that most viewers will have, which means a lot of time spent just waiting for the pieces that need moved into place for the grand conclusion. This feels unavoidable, admittedly, but the whole thing could have been streamlined by removing one or two moments of Jigsaw underlining his rules and methodology. And, I will say it, add another one or two victims to keep the blood and gore outweighing the screentime that doesn’t focus on deadly traps.

A good time for Jigsaw fans, even if it’s completely unnecessary and disposable.


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