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‘Saw X’ Review: The Last Game

Dir Kevin Greutert - 3 Stars

Tobin Bell stars as the masochistic puzzler Jigsaw in "Saw X."
Tobin Bell stars as the masochistic puzzler Jigsaw in "Saw X." By Courtesy of EPK.TV and Alexandros Bolaños Escamilla
By Xander D. Patton, Crimson Staff Writer

Would you like to play a game? In “Saw X” — the tenth installment of the “Saw” film franchise — the Jigsaw Killer returns to prove that he will not “die easy.” Alongside him, the franchise fights for its own survival, using this film — which serves as a sequel to “Saw” (2004) and a prequel to “Saw II” (2005) — to attempt to remedy its massive mistake of killing off the series’ beloved protagonist, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), by instead giving him the more multi-dimensional character arc he deserved.

“Saw X” opens with a pained and grieving Kramer, who is doing everything within his power to defeat his cancer and buy himself more time to live a normal life. He pleads with doctors for any possible treatment and vows that he will do just about anything to buy more time to no avail. However, his helpless sentiment doesn’t last long as Kramer — the Jigsaw Killer — soon finds his first victim of the film: a hospital custodian who steals precious valuables from the sick and elderly.

Immediately after being introduced to his character, viewers see him hooked up to one of the Jigsaw Killer’s famous “games.” To ensure that he will never steal again, this specific contraption forces him to break each of his own fingers or suffer the fatal consequences. From this scene, viewers quickly catch on that this movie replicates many of the elements characteristic of the “Saw” films that fans have come to know and love, including its rube-goldberg-esque death traps, its quick and jittery editing style, and its anxious, fast-paced camera movements.

As soon as this scene ends, however, viewers are quickly returned to Kramer’s seemingly hopeless reality. He endlessly seeks opportunities for treatment for his cancer wherever he goes, visiting various doctors and support groups before stumbling upon what seems to be his golden ticket. Through this journey, viewers see the less glorified side of Kramer’s life as the Jigsaw Killer while being exposed to examples of his humanity as an individual.

This part of the film feels distinctly different from prior “Saw” films. The movie is warmly color graded with a certain brightness that reveals the beauty in Kramer’s everyday life. The typical grain and grunge of the franchise is abandoned for a professional cleanliness that makes one forget that they’re even watching a horror film. This extends even to the music, which feels whimsical and fantastical. By creating a distinctly visual narrative shift, this movie develops a depth that attempts to convince the audience that Kramer is not a complete villain, and that there is instead some humanity left in him despite his horrendous acts. In the end, as a viewer, one begins to feel the same hope that Kramaer feels, finally seeing something other than darkness at the end of his tunnel.

In the end, however, Kramer learns that he has been both deceived by this cast of fake doctors and scammed. His cancer is no closer to being cured, and this pains him greatly. From here, the bright, hopeful tone of the film is swapped for the familiar grunge of the series, and the Jigsaw Killer’s typical gore fest ensues as he does whatever it takes to get retribution on these people who take advantage of the sick and elderly, such as himself. In showing characters being forced to remove one of their legs or even a literal chunk of their brain, the rest of this movie provides gore that keeps one cringing.

Overall, this film distinguishes itself from many of the other films in the “Saw” franchise by establishing similarities to the first installment in the series. It emphasizes a level of intimacy with each of the characters and deeply explores each of the relationships that the characters of this film share amongst themselves. The pace is slowed down, and victims undergo their death traps one at a time, making the challenges significantly more personal, a move that yet again parallels the feel of the first film of the series. The creators behind the franchise ultimately prove that they’re not afraid to try new things, exploring tones unknown to the “Saw” franchise in this latest installment.

After ten films, it’s easy to wonder what’s to come for the “Saw” franchise. In an interview with Screen Rant, however, director Kevin Greutert says that there is “no clear direction for the “Saw” franchise's future.” Despite the fact that it’s hard to let go of a series that audiences have come to know and love over the course of two decades, “Saw X” makes things a little easier by providing a satisfying ending with one last game.

—Staff writer Xander D. Patton can be reached at xander.patton@thecrimson.com

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