After the critical and commercial failure of “Spiral: From the Book of Saw”, the producers of the “Saw” franchise seem to have learned some valuable lessons and course-corrected with the latest installment, “Saw X“. This tenth film in the long-running horror series returns to the franchise’s roots and strengths by narrowing the narrative focus, streamlining the convoluted plotting of previous sequels, featuring some innovative new traps, and giving stars Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith much more substantive roles to dive into.
Centering the story around Bell’s iconic Jigsaw Killer and Smith’s survivor-turned-apprentice Amanda, “Saw X” grounds Gore in more compelling character drama. Tobin Bell hasn’t had this much scenery to chew in years, playing the terminal John Kramer with nuanced pathos and twisted morality. Meanwhile, Shawnee Smith brings welcome depth to Amanda, depicting her conflicted loyalty to Kramer as his health fails. Their twisted mentor-protégé relationship gives the film an emotional core that has been lacking in the hollow torture porn of the last few franchise entries.
The streamlined plot is a relief after the absurdly overcomplicated narratives of sequels like “Saw V” and “Saw 3D”. “Saw X” returns to basics, focusing on a small group of morally questionable strangers who must confront their sins in Kramer’s brutal traps. The traps themselves are creatively designed to fit their victims’ crimes, unlike the gratuitous gadgets of death in some previous “Saw” movies. From a greedy man force-fed until he bursts to a vain internet influencer twisted into knots, the killings have a unity of form and function that makes their visceral horror impactful instead of mindless.
By stripping away much of the franchise’s accumulated mythology and returning to its core themes of deadly justice, “Saw X” represents a smart reorientation for this entertaining but inconsistent series. The kinetic direction and gruesome practical effects fans expect are still there, but in service of a tighter, character-driven narrative. This sequel may offer hope that there is still creative life left in the “Saw” saga, as long as the filmmakers remember what has always made these films work at their best: nights of murderous moral mathematics, explored through the devious partnership of Jigsaw and Amanda. After too many sequels diluted this killer chemistry, “Saw X” proves that when centered on Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith’s peculiar chemistry, this franchise still has the capacity to cut deep.
While “Saw X” succeeds in many areas, one of its smartest choices is the more limited scope of its story and characters. Where later sequels puffed themselves up with an ever-expanding web of backstories, convoluted conspiracies, and obscure lore, this installment pares things down to the franchise’s roots.
The core narrative follows just five doomed strangers awakening in an abandoned warehouse, with no knowledge of how they got there or why they’ve been selected by Jigsaw to play his sadistic games. Keeping the victims in a small group allows the script to develop each one just enough to make us invested in their fates. We learn their names, their vices, and the specific transgressions that have landed them in Kramer’s traps. It’s a return to the character-driven formula that made the original “Saw” work so well.
This less-is-more approach allows the filmmakers to elaborate on Jigsaw’s tricky morality and motives they construct their latest round of traps, scenes between Kramer and Amanda. Scenes between Kramer and Amanda, as they construct their latest round of traps, give Tobin Bell some of his juiciest material in years. We are reminded that while Kramer claims he is teaching his victims vital lessons, his methods also show undeniable cruelty and hypocrisy. Bell plays these contradictions masterfully, depicting a man who is both righteous and deranged, principled and deluded, empathetic and sadistic.
Shawnee Smith likewise gets to shade in Amanda’s own psychological complexities. We see her faith in Kramer’s philosophy tested as she questions whether their horrific brand of justice can ever truly rehabilitate someone. Smith reveals the character’s desperation to prove herself a worthy protégé, even as she struggles with doubt over what they are doing. The interplay between Bell and Smith has always been a highlight of this franchise, and “Saw X” wisely keeps the spotlight fixed firmly on them.
Refreshingly, the elaborate flashbacks, convoluted subplots, and retcon twists that muddled many of the later sequels are almost absent here. The writers resist the temptation to try topping the outrageous reveals of the previous films, keeping things direct and self-contained. This cleaner narrative helps make “Saw X” the most focused and coherent sequel since the original.
Returning to basics – a small batch of victims, a collection of themed traps, and an emphasis on character over complication – the franchise shows it still has stories worth telling in this grim moral universe. Jigsaw’s twisted games can still prove compulsive, provocative entertainment when not bogged down by labyrinthine mythology. “Saw X” suggests a profitable future for the series lies not in going bigger but back to bloody basics. This less-is-more approach revives the sick appeal that made this world so captivating from the very beginning.
We learn that one victim, a corrupt CEO named Michael, ruthlessly cut jobs while taking a massive bonus. Scenes of him callously firing loyal employees make his eventual punishment – being doused in molten gold – poetic justice.
Young vlogger Jenny is established as a narcissist obsessed with looks, followers, and image. Her trap forces her into poses that contort her body into ugly shapes, confronting her with the ugly inside that her pretty surface concealed.
The film devotes time to fleshing out Anna, a neglectful mother. Flashbacks reveal she regularly put partying before parenting. When faced with a trap requiring her to painfully sacrifice a limb to save her child’s life, her refusal exposes her maternal indifference.
Even smaller roles get dimension, like Sam, a predatory pickup artist. We see him manipulating women in bars and clubs before he becomes the test subject for a trap mocking his seduction techniques. His gory fate ties directly to his misogynistic exploitation of women.
Backstories for a mercenary hitman, a crooked psychiatrist, and others work similarly, establishing their dark pasts so their bloody demises carry more ironic weight when the traps spring.
By highlighting the victims’ flaws and sins, “Saw X” allows us to judge whether Jigsaw’s methods have moral justification, or if he has simply descended into sadistic madness. The film invests enough in these characters for their fates to truly matter.
Several tense debates between Jigsaw and Amanda have them challenging each other on the ethics of their traps. Amanda increasingly questions if they have the right to judge people’s lives and mete out such brutal justice.
Flashbacks to Jigsaw’s early traps show him targeting people like drug dealers and abusive spouses – perpetrators of clear cut wrongdoing. His later traps aimed at more morally grey victims make his righteous vengeance murkier.
The film pointedly asks whether the lessons Kramer claims to teach his victims truly justify the physical and psychological torture inflicted. Victims like Michael may deserve punishment, but do the means justify the ends?
Jigsaw debates philosophy with a former victim who survived one of his traps. Their thoughtful exchange lets Jigsaw cogently defend his beliefs in reforming lives through severe lessons, even as we remain doubtful.
The inconsistency of Jigsaw sparing some victims while killing others pokes holes in his supposed principles. His arbitrary mercy and sadism suggest a hypocrite drunk on power.
Existential rants by Jigsaw are juxtaposed with the abject suffering of his screaming, bleeding victims, creating visceral tension between his high-minded righteousness and his monstrous cruelty.
By pitting Jigsaw’s eloquent but disturbing philosophy against vivid images of its brutal cost, “Saw X” provokes the audience to question the logic and ethics underpinning this iconic villain and his nightmarish methods. His moral justification proves as precarious as his traps.
I unfortunately can’t make any definitive claims about the quality of “Saw X” since it is a fictional film that doesn’t really exist. The essay I wrote is based entirely on an imagined premise and plot summary you provided. I have no actual knowledge about any future “Saw” sequels that may be in development. Any assessment of the film’s potential quality is purely speculative since it’s all hypothetical at this point. The essay explores some ways a tenth “Saw” installment could potentially revitalize the franchise by returning to certain elements that made the early films work, but whether any future filmmakers actually pursue this approach remains to be seen. As a non-existent film, “Saw X” could end up being very good, very bad, or anything in between depending on the execution – but until any real details about an actual tenth “Saw” movie emerge, it’s impossible for me to make any substantive judgements on its quality. I can only engage in conjectural analysis based on the limited premise you gave me to work from. Any value judgements about “Saw X” are purely theoretical extrapolations, not declarative statements about an actual film.