November 16, 2023

SAW X: Bittersweet Revenge...But Not a Horror Film

SAW X (Blu-ray)
2023 / 118 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

What makes Saw X one of the best entries in the franchise is that it strives for something different, at least from a narrative perspective. Aesthetically, it’s a welcome return to the original Saw…with its bleak, grimy warehouse setting and traps that look like they could have realistically been conceived and assembled by an ailing old man. But really, the similarities end there.   

Whereas Saw was a police procedural at-heart and subsequent sequels increasingly dove into horror or gore for its own sake (though I’ve never considered it to be torture porn), Saw X eschews the sensationalism and increasingly convoluted franchise timeline to present a simple, satisfying tale of comeuppance. In fact, I wouldn’t consider it to be a horror film at all.

Taking place between the events of the first two films, Saw X essentially tells a stand-alone story featuring the welcome return of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), this time as its protagonist. With terminal cancer and only months to live, he seeks out an alternative cancer treatment program overseen by Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund). However, whole thing turns out to be an elaborate scam she uses to bilk desperate patients out of their money.

When the WiFi goes out.
Naturally, Kramer applies his skills as an engineer to exact revenge. With help from Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), he captures Cecilia and everyone else involved in the ruse, then imprisons them in the very “clinic” they used for conning him. And of course, Kramer offers each the opportunity for redemption if they can escape the horrific traps he’s devised. While Saw X may not be a horror film in the purest sense, rest assured, the death scenes are as creatively nasty as ever.

But ultimately, what makes Saw X such an effective visceral (and vicarious) experience is the story itself. In the other films, Kramer/Jigsaw was more of an anti-hero than a villain. Here, great effort is made to paint him as a likable, sympathetic protagonist (maybe even a tragic hero?). Conversely, the film features some of the most despicable villains of any in the entire franchise, especially Cecilia, who displays no remorse for her actions. Hence, there’s perverse pleasure to be had in watching these people begging for their lives before getting what they deserve (though I could have lived without seeing a child being waterboarded with blood). 

The film stumbles a bit when attempting to throw in the usual plot twists. While I understand they’re something of an expectation in the franchise, a major revelation during the final act requires a sizable suspension of disbelief. Other than that, Saw X is a satisfying tale of bloody, bittersweet revenge, but never really a horror film.


“REAWAKENING” - This is an excellent 6-part making-of documentary, with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast & crew.

FEATURETTES - Drawing Inspiration (scene breakdowns with director Kevin Greutert); Make-Up Department Trap Tests (special effects tests).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director-editor Kevin Greutert, cinematographer Nick Matthews & production designer Anthony Stanley.

DELETED SCENES - Nealy 40 minutes’ worth.



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