I remember seeing Saw for the first time. My family and I got it as a Blockbuster rental because the concept of two strangers waking up in a decrepit bathroom with no knowledge of how they got there was very intriguing. After seeing Saw in 2004 I would have never imagined the journey the franchise would take with almost two decades of storytelling. Directed by Kevin Greutert (Saw VI, Saw 3D, Jessabelle) and written by Josh Stolberg (Spiral, Piranha 3D, Jigsaw) and Pete Goldfinger (Spiral, Piranha 3D, Jigsaw), Saw X showcases the mindset of John Kramer (Tobin Bell) aka Jigsaw during the early stages of his games with the sequel/prequel film having the longest film running time in the franchise at 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Billy the Puppet in Saw X. Photo by: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

Desperate to find a way to live longer while battling a grueling case of cancer, John Kramer travels to Mexico to participate in a risky and experimental medical procedure with hopes it will cure him. Synnøve Macody Lund plays Cecillia Pederson, owner of the medical facility that has “helped” sick people like John for eight years. Renata Vaca plays Gabriela, Octavio Hinojosa plays Mateo, and Paulette Hernandez plays Valentina. All three are key employees in Cecillia’s operation. Steven Brand plays Parker Sears, Joshua Okamoto plays Diego, and Michael Beach plays Henry Kessler. These are also characters you’ll want to remember while watching Saw X.

(L-R): Tobin Bell as John Kramer and Synnøve Macody Lund as Cecilia Pederson in Saw X. Photo by: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

It’s no spoiler that John gets conned by this group of “medical professionals.” It’s in the trailer and in the official synopsis of the film, but the mystery is what John plans to do with this information once he finds out. Let the games begin.

Saw X returns to its 2004 roots with a character driven plot and gives viewers a deeper look at what made John Kramer test his subjects the way he did. Because it is so like the original film the pacing is very slow. It takes a while for a trap to appear on screen and it’s not the typical cat and mouse game seen in previous installments which I prefer. (Saw II (2005) is my favorite). Saw X producer Oren Koules said this film takes place weeks after the first Saw, and while it’s never explicitly mentioned in the movie, viewers could figure out the timeline placement since John is still alive and so is another franchise favorite.

Amanda Young, played by Shawnee Smith, returns to the Saw universe as Jigsaw’s beloved protégé. The relationship between the two is further explored in this one as the dynamics of their bond are displayed. Despite the demented work the pair are involved in, you can clearly see the love they share for one another and more of the complex layers their partnership has.

(L-R): Tobin Bell as John Kramer and Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young in Saw X. Photo by: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

The traps in Saw have been some of the most brutal depictions of body horror on screen and has even led the masses to consider the later Saw films to be torture porn due its graphic nature as victims are left with the choice to “live or die.” Mainly all the traps in these films are not for the squeamish and it remains true in Saw X, but the traps weren’t that impressive to me. There are some brutal and innovative death traps in the series and Saw X was very tamed considering what has been shown in the other films. But then I thought this film takes place early on in Jigsaw’s career of testing the unworthy, so they wouldn’t be that advanced yet.

Octavio Hinojosa as Mateo in Saw X. Photo by: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate
Renata Vaca as Gabriella in Saw X. Photo by: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

Once again, your moral compass is tested when watching a Saw movie. In one instance you’re rooting for the villain to seek revenge on those who wronged him and then you’ll want to have compassion for the those you’re not necessarily supposed to. Composer Charlie Clouser scored the latest installment and has previously worked on every single Saw film. His iconic “Hello Zep” can be heard in the film and the placement, as always, takes place during a crucial moment.

Saw X gives an interesting viewpoint of Jigsaw and lays down the pieces of how the franchise could continue with Tobin Bell. Be sure to stay for a mid-credit scene. Saw X has the essence of what made fans fall in love with the franchise in 2004 and continue to support it today. Leaving the theater, you’ll want to watch all the films again and most of them are streaming on Peacock (you’re welcome).

Saw X is now playing in theaters.


Amber Dover is a multimedia journalist with over a decade writing about pop culture. Cat mom with a deep love of horror, you can follow Amber at @Glambergirlblog on Instagram and Twitter.


Check out Popternative’s exclusive interview with Saw X cast member Renata Vaca below about the film.

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