Once a film franchise reaches a certain age, creating satisfying sequels becomes almost impossible. Within horror especially, it’s exceedingly hard to develop stories that capture the magic of the original movie. However, every now and then, a series delivers a film that rivals all other entries in terms of quality. Directed by Kevin Greutert, Saw X is a viciously brilliant character study that fans will surely adore. Propelled by a powerhouse performance from Tobin Bell, this may be the best Saw film of them all.
Set between Saw 1 and 2, John Kramer (Jigsaw) travels to Mexico in an attempt to cure his terminal brain cancer. As mentioned, Tobin Bell leads the picture. He is joined by Synnøve Macody Lund, Octavio Hinojosa, Renata Vaca and Shawnee Smith.
Saw X is a release that succeeds due to its unwavering focus on John Kramer. For the first time in the franchise, we have a film where he is firmly our protagonist. As we follow Kramer through his emotional journey, you begin to empathise with his situation (even if he is a hypocritical serial killer). Through his relationship with Amanda (Shawnee Smith), the film expands on the twisted philosophy of a dying psychopath who truly believes he is doing the right thing. Congratulations are in order for writers Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg as they have crafted a character-first narrative that still features the gory violence that many viewers will be clamouring for.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Saw film without the traps. By taking a simpler approach, the “games” in this movie are more grounded than some might expect but that doesn’t stop them from being as gruesome as ever. Each scene involving a trap feels natural to the story and never comes across as excessive. While many horror films prioritise bloody spectacle above all, Saw X uses its gore to enrich the overarching story.
Another unexpected element of the picture is its elevated approach to filmmaking. It is abundantly clear that this movie was approached with a deeper level of care than most of the other entries in the series. The score by Charlie Clouser takes us on a thrilling ride that is both touching and nostalgic. Accompanying the music is the splendid cinematography from Nick Matthews. All these factors do a phenomenal job of rounding out the overall quality of this picture.
It is truly remarkable for a franchise to deliver what may be its best film almost 20 years after its first release. Wonderfully directed by Kevin Greutert and perfectly led by Tobin Bell, Saw X is a true triumph for horror cinema.