Title: SAW X
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnove Macody Lund
Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins
What it is: Set between the events of the first SAW and SAW 2, Jigsaw/John Kramer (Tobin Bell) goes for an experimental treatment in Mexico to operate on his brain cancer. At first thinking he’s cured, John rethinks his favorite pastime of putting people in elaborate trap he calls “games” and considers giving it all up. When the treatment winds up being a malicious scam that preys on sick people; however, he decides it’s time for the scammers to play a game. Bloody, tortuous revenge awaits those that have wronged him, and those that know these movies know only a few will survive.
What We Think: SAW, for me, is a deeply important franchise. I am a noted horror buff and SAW was something that has been with me since the beginning. It was a high school tradition of mine to marathon the original movies. That being said, it is far from a perfect franchise. SAW movies are formulaic,usually working like clockwork. Every SAW movie has a series of games and then a big “shocking” twist at the end, someone says “Game Over” and the movie ends with screaming. Rinse, wash, repeat. These movies aren’t exactly groundbreaking except for the levels of gore and how each movie has creative traps that maul the victims in gloriously creative ways. Before now, these films had very little story.
Notice I said: Before Now.
Holy hell. Maybe it’s due to the rise of elevated horror, but someone took notes and actually gave a SAW movie a compelling story. The movie focuses on John Kramer as a character for once. We have gotten hints and he was always been a sympathetic yet mustache twirling villain, but in this movie, it is all from his perspective. We actually get to see more of his day to day, who he is as a person. We get to know the “human” behind the “monster”. I went into this movie completely blind, not even looking at promo material (I tend to do that with horror films), and I was so pleasantly surprised at how they handled this. In retrospect, I should’ve known the illegal operation thing was a scam cus it’s a SAW movie, and I had a lingering feeling that something wasn’t right, but damn it I felt John Kramer’s hope. For the first half of the movie, it’s all set up. You meet his victims and think that you get to know them as people. They seem genuinely to have well intentions and it actually feels for a second like John might actually be cured. When it looks like Jigsaw might hang up the Billy doll for good, you almost buy it. Almost. But this is a SAW movie. You know something is going to go horribly wrong and boom, it does. You feel for John Kramer this movie. When the betrayal sets in, the fact it was all a scam begins to calculate, you immediately want to see these scammers punished in the deliciously macabre way that only Jigsaw can deliver. Jigsaw’s brand of morality is laughably immoral to me, but it is oh so sweet this movie.
Tobin Bell was great in his role as always. I’ve always felt like he is one of the best actors in the franchise. Shawnee Smith as Amanda returns for this film, and although her character has one of the worst haircuts I’ve seen in film, it is such a joy to see her return as Jigsaw’s main disciple. The father/daughter bond between the two in this movie feels genuine and even though both are psychopathic killers, you find yourself rooting for them throughout the movie. This movie has you really sympathize with the killers, but that is perhaps because the scammers are so twisted that you actually want them to get their comeuppance. The lead scammer, Dr. Celia Peder (Synnove Macody Lund) is arguably one of SAW’s best characters. Never has anyone given good ole’ jigsaw a run for his money like that character and that is all I will say because I do not want to spoil anything.
As far as traps go in this movie, some I liked, some I thought weren’t as strong as they could’ve been. The big twist ending trap was arguably the most disappointing in structure for me, but I was OK with it for story reasons. The other trap I didn’t care for was the radiation trap, those that have seen the movie will know what I’m talking about. Felt like one of the most survivable to me. Every other trap though? Gnarly as hell. This movie brings the violence in ways that gore fanatics (admittedly like myself) will love.
I think other than some faults in logic that are stereotypical of SAW movies, I can safely say this is probably one of my favorite SAW films of all time. I loved it and it brought me back to teen-hood.
Our Grade: A+, Easily the best written SAW movie. Makes me very excited to see what they’ll do in the future. I am literally rewatching all the SAW movies again because of this movie and it has made me fall back in love with a franchise I admittedly lost touch with.