The Saw franchise is one of the most profitable in Hollywood. Born in the early 2000s, it has since become one of the most recognizable faces in the horror genre. However, despite gaining box office success and a dedicated following, the franchise has never been popular with critics. They have derided the cliche plots, often calling the series “torture porn.” As such, the highest score the series had gotten prior to this year was 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, and other review sites have given the films a similar or lower score. With the franchise now on its tenth installment and going back in the timeline to between the first two films, many fans have given up hope that any entry could be considered a “critical success.”
Despite all odds, Saw X managed to exceed expectations, and not only was a hit with critics and audiences but breathed new life into the franchise. Following John Kramer (Tobin Bell) in
Bell really is allowed to shine in this new installment in a way that wasn’t possible in earlier entries. Many of the films in the Saw franchise are focused on the traps and the spectacle. As a result, the movies didn’t really flesh out the other aspects of the movies enough, leaving more to be desired in terms of story and characters. Saw X feels like the writers and producers of the series really wanted to try and expand the human sides of the characters and add new depth to what was, admittedly, a very shallow plot. Bell shows the pain and hardness at the core of Kramer’s character better than in other installments and the audience is allowed to see what the actor can do when given a good script. Smith also gives an amazing performance as Young, and her ability to perfectly replicate how her character acted when she was the apprentice of Jigsaw can not be overstated.
One of the other critiques of the Saw franchise is how despite Kramer’s goal of giving people “a new lease on life,” many of those who end up in his traps have only done minor things. People like Joyce, who didn’t know the things her husband did as a conman, or Jeff, who was just grieving over the death of his son, are big examples of how the victims aren’t always in a trap for the right reasons. By contrast, Saw X gives audiences a very understandable reason for why Jigsaw chose those people, as they are running a scam targeting very vulnerable people; Kramer himself falling victim to the scam adds a great personal touch to the traps and gives them another layer, as it elevates the story from being just a serial killer targeting scammers to a revenge story about a deadly ill man getting retribution against those who lied to him. And to fans of the series, don’t worry, the traps are more gory than ever in this movie.
Saw X is one of the best in the franchise, and the first one of the series that I consider to use its concept to its full potential. After the disappointing releases of Jigsaw and Spiral, I truly think that the franchise is headed in the right direction again. Hopefully, if the next movie improves on what made this one work so well, we could have more critically acclaimed movies in the future. If this is a sign of what’s to come, then I’m excited for what comes next.
Rocco Lippi is a first-year film, photography and visual arts major that ranks all of Jigsaw’s traps from best to worst after watching each new Saw movie. You can reach Rocco at [email protected].