Saw X marks the tenth installment in a franchise which came from the humblest of beginnings. Two men in a room, directed by James Wan, would go on to change the direction of an entire genre. It was suddenly acceptable to be a fan of the most rancid of gore, and ‘torture porn’ became a trend in itself.
Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of Saw, or its older, more dramatic cousin, Final Destination. But while it’s acceptable to consider the former’s franchise to have produced some of the best horror movies of all time, what’s not acceptable is losing your sense of self-respect when it comes to picking the new movies you’ll be watching.
There’s no reason for a film in a franchise that’s ten movies long to be this boring and badly made. Watching all the Saw movies in order has its ups and downs, admittedly, but this is pretty low, even for Billy the Puppet.
Saw X follows John Kramer (AKA: Jigsaw) as he travels to Mexico to seek out a supposedly miraculous cancer treatment from a too-good-to-be-true medical practitioner. Alas, it is too good to be true. He finds himself scammed out of money, stranded in Mexico (which is unironically glazed with the golden ‘Mexican filter’ color grade), and with a tumor still lingering in his brain. Of course, if there’s one person you don’t want to scam, it’s the man who’ll kill you and then tell you to thank him for it.
But John Kramer doesn’t really kill people. That’s his stance, anyway. But his own self-belief system is almost as baffling as every single character decision made in this movie. Saw X is illogical to the most embarrassing point, both confusing its audience with inconsistencies and a lack of logic, while also shoving the most obvious pieces of information down your throat repeatedly. Want a flashback of a scene that happened thirty seconds ago? Well, we’ve got plenty!
Let’s cut to the chase: the traps (the thing we’re all here for) are fun. But Saw X blows its load in the first five minutes by giving us the ‘Eyeball Vacuum Trap’. It’s a scene that feels definitively vintage Saw, both in the frantic camera style and purpose of the trap itself, but it’s almost too good in comparison to the later methods of torture, which all feel a little inconsequential as a result. It’s the only brief, glorious moment of classic Saw, and it’s over too quickly.
And, honestly, there doesn’t feel like there’s enough of the thing that drives this whole franchise. The Saw-ing. It’s all well and good to sit and watch John Kramer lament his illness, but we’ll never root for the modern day stand-in for H. H. Holmes, nor his antagonist victims.
Tobin Bell does a good enough job leading the movie as John Kramer, reprising the role he’s played for two decades now, but it’s hard to care about anyone on screen enough to either root for them or against them.
Most of the traps in Saw X are mid, at best, but things take a whiplash-inducing turn when the movie’s climax sees an unexpected victim get pulled into one of Jigsaw’s torture toys. This is when the until-then laughing and heckling audience fell quiet, and there was a brief moment of wondering where it was all going. It’s okay to be a funny bad movie, but quite another thing to be an uncomfortable bad movie.
Saw fans will probably get just about everything they need to get out of this movie, but they should want more from their tenth outing. More creativity, more homage to the visual style that originally made this series so popular, and more quality across the board.
The Saw franchise isn’t known for producing the greatest movies ever made, but the fact of the matter is that Saw X is in the red when it comes to competent dialogue, logic, or humor. In that sense, the Saw movies never really found their footing, and there’s no excuse for that this late in the game.
Saw X will be released in theaters on Friday September 29, 2023.
For more gore, check out our list of the best body horror movies of all time. You can also find out when Saw X takes place, and see if Saw X is streaming. Elsewhere, you can look ahead to what’s next and check out our guides to The Exorcist: Believer release date and Five Nights at Freddy’s release date. We’ve also our The Nun 2 review, so you can see what we thought of the other newest horror out right now.
For some scary longreads, check out our feature on why we think PG-13 horror can be great, and see why Evil Dead might be the best horror series ever for one reason.
This outing might be somewhat entertaining for the biggest Saw fans, but it suffers the sin of having one of the biggest horror franchises in the business feel dull and irrelevant.