Saw X review

Saw X is boring and questionable, but eventually just as gross as you want it to be

2 out of 5 stars

Saw X brings us back into the world of the John Kramer (aka Jigsaw), now teary-eyed and weak, and as always filled with suffering and moral judgment. Director Kevin Greutert (who also directed Saw V) begins the never-ending 10th instalment in the Saw franchise with an unexpected and, quite frankly, dry approach to the looming terminal condition of Kramer’s health. 

Hospital beds, cancer support circles and sadistic daydreams fill the mind of an increasingly weak and desperate murderer. With this short timeline ahead, Kramer’s doctor recommends that he retire from work and rest in his final months. Give up? A suggestion that the rest of us, 10 movies in, can only chuckle at. What is a lionhearted master of games to do in such a situation? 

Conveniently, Kramer stumbles upon an alternative option: experimental treatment, proposed by a friend from the cancer support group he’s been attending. A new gamble at life is proposed, where Kramer has a chance to pay a lot of money to a nomadic team of philanthropic doctors for an extremely experimental and controversial cancer treatment. Not a stranger to games, Kramer signs himself up for this risky treatment in the hopes of a new chance on life. 

At this point in the movie, what we crave from Saw feels forgotten. An hour goes by, and we’re left with a discourse on pharmaceutical immorality. The only game we’ve met is that of healthcare. Kramer must decide if the risk of surgery and treatment is worth the suffering and potential failure of unregulated or traditional care. 

However, the film’s attempt to grapple with western healthcare is not nuanced enough to lead the plot. Rather, this discourse feels more uncomfortable than critical as the director attempts to foster empathy for the man behind The Needle Pit (Saw II). As an audience member, I needed to remind myself of the previous movies, drenched in gore and jump scares, not to let my eyes drift off from boredom. 

Finally, halfway through the two-hour movie, the Saw X we want and deserve begins. If you have ever had anxiety about what happens to you when you’re unconscious in a doctor’s office or if the procedure you’re receiving (and paying thousands of dollars for) is even doing anything, this is the Saw you’ve been waiting for. Jigsaw’s work begins, and the hour of an empathetic and grateful John Kramer is flipped on its side. Finally.

All the gore that was missing is made up for. The ‘life coaching’ that Jigsaw feels it is his responsibility to inflict on the amoral villains of the Saw universe continues; whether or not he can stick around and see these games through. 

My favourite disciple, Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), shows up in dedicated fashion, wearing an incredible lingerie-choker, lowrise-cargo-pant combo that doesn’t go unnoticed. She brings a witty and nuanced strength to the movie that it desperately needs, executing Jigsaw’s lifework.

The boring, long-winded first half of the film is quickly forgotten when the dynamic between Amanda and Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund), the Tár coded doctor leading the experimental cancer treatment of Jigsaw’s dreams, takes centre stage. Saw X first had me questioning the need for 10 movies on the same subject when our current cinemascape is filled with such great indie horror. That is, until I imagined a Saw XI à la Oceans 8 with Amanda taking over in a 2023 women-led neoliberal moment.

Saw X is not that, but it is still Saw and if you like watching someone’s eyeballs get sucked out of their face, you should probably go and see it. The gore that comes is arguably worth the wait. Saw X is not revolutionary, but it is fun, and it is almost Halloween, so pay a visit to your favourite children’s toy as you question who the villain really is. Is it scammers, murderers, elder abusers, pharmaceutical companies, or people who leave the theatre before the credits roll? ■

Saw X (directed by Kevin Greutert)

Saw X is currently playing in Montreal theatres.

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