Year:  2023

Director:  Kevin Greutert

Rated:  MA

Release:  September 28, 2023

Distributor: StudioCanal

Running time: 118 minutes

Worth: $12.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Michael Beach, Renata Vaca

… a solid entry that will delight the armchair sadists out there.

Tell you what, dollars to doughnuts, the producers who own the Saw franchise wish they hadn’t killed John Kramer aka Jigsaw in Saw III (2006). Don’t get us wrong, it was a cracker of an unexpected moment in the third film, and it hit hard, but since then, the creatives involved have had to tie themselves into Gordian Knots trying to fit the gravel-voiced lesson-teacher into each subsequent entry. Unlike other horror franchises like Friday the 13th – where the killer was brought back by a random bolt of lightning after an ill-advised exhumation in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason LivesSaw tries to fit itself into something resembling reality, so each fresh visit from Kramer needs to be slotted into (or around, or before) existing continuity. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but in the case of Saw X it proves to be effective, albeit a tad silly at times.

Saw X is very much focused on everyone’s favourite karmic equaliser, John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell), a serial killer who places those guilty of crimes (legal or moral) in grisly contraptions and then gives them a slim chance to live… usually at the expense of limbs, skin or bone. He’s basically a less annoying life coach. Set after the events of the first Saw film, John finds himself very ill from the same brain cancer diagnosis that helped inspire his unorthodox “work”. However, a ray of light comes into his life. A mobile clinic run by Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) offers an experimental treatment that cures all manner of diseases, for a price. John takes the treatment but soon realises the whole caper is a massive con. Of course, a group of grifters picking the Jigsaw killer as their mark? Not a great plan, guys, and Jigsaw’s retribution fills the bulk of the latest entry’s runtime.

First things first, if you’re a fan of the Saw franchise, and have been a little let down by the more recent entries, you’re probably going to be right on board with Saw X. It’s definitely a return to form, with a surprisingly straightforward premise and execution, and a pleasing amount of Tobin Bell. The quality of the gore and kills is a little inconsistent, as is the acting from some of the victims, but overall, this is a solid entry that will delight the armchair sadists out there. As for everyone else? The appeal may be more elusive.

At 118 minutes, Saw X is way too long, and the flabby runtime robs some of the moments of their urgency, particularly in the third act. There are also a couple of twists that while fun, are also contemptuously stupid, which isn’t exactly unusual for the series, but may raise an eyebrow or two. Oh, and the direction from Kevin Greutert never really rises above workmanlike, which feels like a missed opportunity. Still and all, when the credits started rolling at the critics’ screening, a gentleman stood up, bellowing “Fuck yeah!”, so clearly the film did something right.

Saw X is the right kind of sequel for those who are primed to enjoy it. Tobin Bell is great, some of the gore is effective and there’s a grim satisfaction in watching predatory scumbags suffer. That said, if they want to keep cranking these things out, the producers might want to reconsider their stance of graveyard resurrection lightning bolts.