Dir. Kevin Greutert (2023)
John Kramer goes to Mexico to undergo an experimental treatment to cure his cancer, but he meets some new test subjects along the way.
As you've probably gathered if you've been reading along the last 24 hours, I'm a bigger fan of the Saw franchise than most. There's really only one movie in the entire series that I didn't like at all, and I think there's a lot to love about even the lesser films in the series. Each film has its successes and failures, but I generally feel that the former outweighs the latter throughout most of the franchise. I wasn't expecting a whole hell of a lot from the tenth installment in the franchise, Saw X, and unfortunately I got about what I expected. It's a Saw movie, to be sure, but it lacks a lot of the smarts that have helped the series last as long as it has.
The film is set between the events of the original Saw and Saw II, Saw X takes the action to Mexico in order to retcon in a few more events before Tobin Bell inevitably stops being able to make more movies. John Kramer (Bell), everybody's favorite sociopathic life coach, has traveled south of the border after he runs into someone from his cancer support group who claims to have been completely healed of his disease by a rogue doctor performing experimental procedures that "Big Pharma" are trying to shut down. The procedure, which involves a combination of tumor removal surgery and gene therapy, is performed by a woman named Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund), the daughter of a famous surgeon. When John eventually learns that the whole thing was possibly a scam, he exacts his revenge in the best way that he knows how: by putting people in impossible situations and forcing them to sacrifice necessary parts of their bodies if they want to live.
Most of the people tuning in to Saw movies are doing so to watch people undergo horrific torture in creative kill machines, and Saw X largely fulfills that premise. While the "victims" definitely undergo pain and torment, most of the designs are much less Rube Goldbergian than they have been in previous installments, most of them having little-to-nothing to do with what the "victims" have done wrong and even fewer having an easily foreseeable outcome. The devices range from the nearly-impossible to the outright stupid, with one victim having to cut out pieces of his own brain and another having his eyes sucked out unless he breaks his fingers (which seems like the easiest Saw trap of all time, tbh). The punishments are inhumane, but they also lack connection to Jigsaw's usual well thought out life lessons. It was certainly a step down from the brilliant setup from the previous films, and even the ending left a lot to be desired. (I won't spoil it here, but suffice to say it's the first time Kramer has been outsmarted, especially despite the other person doing literally nothing to do so).
Much of the plot resolution made little to no sense, at least not in step with the previous outcomes of films in the series. The big elaborate plot that Kramer usually sets up goes awry and leaves the audience scratching their head, wondering what exactly he accomplishes with his plan and how in the world any of this holds water compared to the rest of the franchise. Bell is excellent as John Kramer, of course, and the return of both Shawnee Smith and Costas Mandylor as Amanda and Hoffman, respectively, will be a nice treat for Saw lovers. While there are certainly some bright points about the film, and it was nice to see it try to go in a slightly different direction (despite the fact that that direction led to an extremely slow buildup and a fizzling payoff), Saw X is largely a miss and probably falls somewhere in the middle-to-bottom of the franchise. A disappointment for sure, but the promise of more sequels may be well worth the price. Hopefully we won't be getting the return of El Jigsaw again in the future.
Who this movie is for: Saw superfans, Twisty horror connoisseurs, Malpractice lawyers
Bottom line: While Saw X certainly isn't the worst in the franchise, it falls far short of being anywhere near the best. There are some nice callbacks and references for fans of the series, and Tobin Bell is amazing as always, but this one lacks a lot of the blockbuster destruction that gorehounds have come to know and love. Jigsaw seems a bit dumber than usual, a lot of the trap setup makes little to no sense, and the payoff just isn't there in the end. It's definitely a movie you want to watch if you're a fan of the series, and I recommend doing so before anything gets spoiled, but I'd say this one is maybe the 5th or 6th best in the series. A letdown, but still worth a watch.