The producers of the Saw franchise are looking for all sorts of ways to continue the series. They gave laugh man Chris Rock a crack at it with the subpar Spiral (2021), an attempt at a Jigsaw-less sequel.
However, Spiral faltered financially—so it was time to take craggy Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), with his droning voice and silly bike-riding puppet, out of his box again.
By my count, Jigsaw has died of terminal cancer 563 times in this series. He showed up in the first film, way back in 2004, deathly ill. He eventually died in one of the following chapters, but they’ve found ways to bring him back again and again.
Saw X tries for a fresh start by going back to near the beginning, just as David Gordon Green did with his Halloween (and will do again with his soon-to-be-released Exorcist movie). This film takes place directly after the original, before Saw 2, so it doesn’t disregard the existence of the other sequels like Green did with Halloween. This is just filling in a time gap near the beginning, so the other eight films remain canon.
This all falls into the category of “Who gives a shit?” for me, because I hate the Saw movies. That said, this one looked promising, and it was getting favorable reviews before I sat myself down for another helping of sadistic and extremely elaborate torture porn, Jigsaw-style.
I do declare: Saw X is the best film in the franchise. I also declare: It’s still not good.
I could take up many, many words listing the countless ways in which I hate these movies, but I’ve been doing that for the last 19 years, since Cary Elwes hilariously overacted in the first one. Just search our online archives—all of the reviews are still up, and my disdain is quite evident. I will now take some space here to add a few paragraphs to those archives.
This is a movie that tries, again, to portray Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw as semi-virtuous and oddly sympathetic. That just doesn’t play well with me. Granted, he puts some rather bad people through some gruesome deaths, but most of the people who go through his little “games” in this movie are just dummies who made a couple of mistakes. I can handle watching them saw their own legs off (and they do so rather efficiently in this movie), but don’t portray the guy doing that to them as some sort of avenger angel for the critically ill. That’s just lopsided and sick.
The other thing: Yes, this is all fantasy, but come on. Jigsaw has something like five hours to put together many, very complicated, no-doubt expensive machines to kill people, and not one of those gadgets fails. He’s working in a remote setting in this one, and he has no lead time to fly in materials or get a team to help him build these elaborate killing machines. He’s only got co-franchise vet Shawnee Smith, of The Blob remake fame—wearing a terrible hairpiece, mind you—to haul all this stuff in, assemble it and put it in play.
None of this shit breaks once. THIS SORT OF THING DRIVES ME NUTS. There’s not a single moment when one of these traps fails to go off, with Jigsaw saying something like, “Aw, nuts on me; I forgot to put the washers and perhaps a couple of industrial fasteners in that eyeball-sucking machine, and now that evil drug addict isn’t going to have their eyes sucked out. My bad. Man, if I’d had just had a little more time, and an entire army to help me build these things, perhaps that evil drug addict could’ve had their eyeballs sucked out!”
Seriously: I think Michael Myers getting shot six times and just walking away like it’s nothing is more plausible than a single killing contraption Jigsaw makes. Freddy Krueger killing people in and out of the dream world could happen before this old geezer could build a contraption that can pound two people in the face as they rock on a fucking seesaw. I could buy the possible reality of, say, Dracula, Frankenstein, John Carpenter’s The Thing, werewolves or M3GAN the killer doll before I could buy the idea that Jigsaw, with the help of Shawnee Smith, could build a contraption that weighs 10 tons and could lift someone in the air and blast them with an industrial-strength radiation-type machine thing, with movements and placements progressively and meticulously timed out. Come on! The man has no crew, and he isn’t supernatural. And he is slowed by brain cancer!
Credit Bell with doing some franchise-best acting work here, and the supporting cast is actually very good at screaming and sawing their own bits off. I found myself sufficiently creeped out and appropriately uncomfortable at times.
However, the ridiculous premise, once again, kills a Saw movie for me. Yes, Saw X is vastly better than the first Saw—and all of the other Saw films that came after. That’s a lot like saying this root canal is so much better than that spinal surgery I had last week.