Saw X - New Release Review
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Renata Vaca, Steven Brand
Written by: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger
Produced by: Mark Burg, Oren Koules, Ulrich Maier
Cinematography by: Nick Matthews
Original Score by: Charles Clouser
A sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable.
After almost 20 years, the 'Saw' franchise has gone through a complete rollercoaster in terms of quality. With the highest highs of hearing Hello Zepp as John Kramer revealed his full plan, blowing the minds of every audience member to the lowest lows of seeing Chris Rock chase a copycat killer in 'Spiral'. Like every horror series, no matter what happens there’s usually something in each film to keep the fans happy.
In 'Saw III', John Kramer (Tobin Bell) got killed off and this truly created a problem for the ongoing films. How do they keep the franchise alive and interesting when your main villain is dead? Imagine 'Elm Street' with no Freddy or 'Friday the 13th' with no Jason (looking at you Part V); so, the solution? Bring the character back in flashbacks to fill in parts of the story we didn’t know needed filled. Cheap? Sure, but it was always fun to see Captain Kreemy and how he was going to creep into the films with traps we never saw or even better, secret apprentices we didn’t know about. When 'Saw X' was announced shortly after the release of 'Spiral', the film makers quickly pointed out that it would be set between 'Saw' and 'Saw II', showing us what happened to John when he travelled to Mexico for a lifesaving operation. Cool idea, gets Tobin Bell back in the main role, but will it upset the balance of the previous films, and will it confuse the timeline in an already convoluted series?
It is truly great to have Tobin Bell back as the puppet master John Kramer; he really gets to show off more of his acting skills here as he plays a desperate man with only months to live. Even though Kramer is a bastard man, his motives are interesting and while you don’t have to agree with his methods, you can understand what he’s trying to do. His goal is to show people that life is worth living, but instead of using motivational speeches, he uses elaborate death traps. The first half of the film really features John as a vulnerable man, which we haven’t really seen in the previous films. I kind of wish they’d went deeper into John’s mind, but the first half is already setting up a slow build to its much blooder second half.
Sadly, one of my main problems with the film is that the second half doesn’t really kick into high gear at all. Director Kevin Greutert previously directed 'Saw VI' and 'Saw VII', yet had edited the first 5 films plus 'Jigsaw'. If there’s anything to be said about all the other 'Saw' films is that the editing is fast paced and very stylised; but somehow this one is incredibly slow, even when it comes to the editing of the kills. Greutert was also the editor here, so it’s hard to tell if maybe he had too much on his plate or didn’t film anything exciting enough and when he got it back to the editing room, he didn’t have anything to work with.
In terms of kills, how they play out here actually feels like the weakest I've seen in a 'Saw' film. Every kill is basically “Cut something off and live”, and I know that’s essentially the premise in most of the films but seeing it one after another in this film becomes boring very fast. Maybe I've just become used to blood and guts in horror films over the years, but this film almost felt very tame when it came to blood loss. People would lose legs or arms and the blood would be minimal. When 'Spiral' has more memorable kills, you know you’re doing something wrong. It’s fun to see Shawnee Smith back as Amanda but she isn’t given a lot to do apart from lifting things for John. Smith and Bell have an emotional scene towards the end of the 2nd act, and it’s very well acted, but it almost falls flat being a fan when you remember that not shortly after this in the canon, John throws Amanda in a second test (Saw II) because he didn’t believe she’d truly learnt her lesson.
There are 5 victims that take part in John’s game. 5 people that have all wronged John recently and I’m not joking when I say they’re easily the 5 worst characters in any 'Saw' film. Boring, underdeveloped and one dimensional, I would feel bad for the actors playing these characters if they weren’t just as bad. I had to look up if these people had ever acted before because they were that bad. By the time it comes to the finale’s half-hearted twist, you’re almost glad to see all these new characters dead.
I've been quite negative, but the film isn’t entirely bad. When Kramer and Amanda are on screen together, it’s a lot of fun to watch as a fan. The chemistry is still there after all these years and it’s fantastic to see them both showing a more human side of their characters. Unfortunately, the whole film just feels so sluggish, from its slow pace to its dull kills. They also set up a sequel to this, as if we’ll see more of John’s adventures between the first 2 films and although I'd love to see more of the Kram-man killing people, it feels like it might be time to reboot this complicated series or continue with characters like Hoffman and Dr Lawrence. Tobin’s had a great run as Kramer, and this film definitely highlights why he’s one of horrors greatest killers, but it might finally be time to say GAME OVER to the series.
- Adam Neeson
'Saw X' is currently playing in UK /Ireland and US cinemas right now.