Saw X (2023)

Saw X (2023)

A uniquely character-focused entry in the franchise that unfortunately falls back on the same tricks



Canada, Mexico
English, Spanish
Horror, Thriller
Costas Mandylor, Craig Hurley, Donagh Gordon
118 min


Should fill the Breaking Bad-shaped hole in your heart for thrillers about cancer-stricken old men taking out their anger on other people due to the failures of the American healthcare system.

What it's about

Serial killer John Kramer seeks out treatment for his brain cancer, but is targeted by a group of people looking to scam him of his money.

The take

For its first half-hour or so, Saw X really doesn't feel like an entry in the long-running horror series commonly described by detractors as "torture porn." It's quiet and steadily paced and does a better job than many horror sequels and reboots of recent years in making its primary antagonist a sympathetic human being. The way the character of John Kramer (AKA Jigsaw) has been written here—elevated by Tobin Bell's performance—gives even the film's later, more extreme segments a hint of soulfulness, since we're made to feel exactly what drives his self-appointed mission to exact justice on other terrible people.

But this new, dramatic spin on Saw doesn't last for very long, and this tenth film eventually slides back into its trademark cheesy elements that won't make any new converts to the series. Overly aggressive editing and music, hammy performances from the supporting cast, and death traps that grow increasingly unimaginative all dull the greater impact that Saw X could have had. The batch of victims we get this time around are somewhat compelling given their connections they have to each other and to Kramer himself, but they're still ultimately more of the same—just cannon fodder waiting for execution.

What stands out

Despite the movie's more tired elements, Tobin Bell's performance really shines through in a manner that makes you wonder why the character actor has never gotten this kind of opportunity before. His Kramer is incredibly sincere here, especially in the early sections of the film when he forges bonds with strangers due to his terminal illness. Bell is naturally easy to root for, with his frail frame, his shaking hands, and how his eyes are equally moved by fear and hope as he wrestles with his diagnosis. If this movie never turned into a gore fest at all, it might've been just as good, if not better.


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