SAW X. Unwatchable cinema [REVIEW]

The latest Saw is unwatchable cinema, the kind that can’t be experienced without covering your eyes.

Jan Tracz

2 October 2023

Fans may indeed love it because, to some extent, it’s a return to the roots, but that doesn’t change the fact that the typical Sunday viewer will want to leave the movie theater as soon as possible. It’s been a long time since there was such a disgusting and exaggerated horror that surpasses all boundaries of good taste.

Extraordinary things happened at the press screening. First, the entire room applauded, excited by the fact that the latest installment of Saw is a return to its roots, something that wasn’t felt in the previous few parts. There was excitement in the air, but it quickly turned into something unexpected. At the screening, journalists were given special paper bags with the inscription “vomit or cry.” What was supposed to be just an aesthetic addition turned out to be a salvation for some: three people actually used the first option before the end credits.

The plot is very simple: the tenth part of the series takes place between the first and second installments. Ailing John Kramer (Tobin Bell), the murderous Jigsaw, is seeking a cure for cancer. He learns that experimental treatment is being carried out in Mexico, which supposedly works on every patient. It sounds like a scam, but determined Kramer decides to grasp at anything he can. And when it turns out that the operation didn’t have the expected results but was just a scam, Kramer has no hope left for himself. So, he decides to do something else in his life and seek revenge on those who took away his last hope.

Tobin Bell gives his all, and he fully deserves respect for it: the 81-year-old actor on screen looks about twenty years younger and probably outshines all his colleagues in the profession. We feel that he still cares, and his involvement is more than just a cash grab. And since the script gives his character a bit of humanity, thanks to Bell’s acting, we sometimes forget that he is playing a serial, psychopathic killer. This is the strongest asset of the film: when Saw X, in intimate moments, addresses John Kramer’s illness (it’s not a secret from the beginning), it gains the most. Finally, we observe the crisis of a man who loves both life and what he does (!), so resignation and death from illness are out of the question. He grabs at anything he can, but nature and the irony of fate cannot be fooled.

However, nothing else here will surprise us. Theoretically, the tenth installment of Saw prepares for us a (theoretically clever) “plot twist,” although we can easily guess what’s really going on and who is who. It’s known that we shouldn’t expect anything from this kind of film, although in this case, the pace and plot build both tension and the final twist maneuver. The intensity of brutal and downright horrific scenes doesn’t help either: they disrupt the tension, throw off the rhythm, and simply ruin everything. Even the traps themselves don’t surprise with originality; instead, they become the driving force for even more blood and human flesh. There’s even a moment when cutting off one’s own leg doesn’t seem particularly terrifying because around the corner, more, increasingly worse monstrosities await, including a sequence in which one of the (anti)heroes has to dig out a piece of their brain… Is this really something we want to watch? Have we reached a point where we find pleasure in watching such things?

Only the biggest fans will find themselves in this ominous and often exaggerated project. During the screening, the room cheered when Jigsaw prepared increasingly depraved traps or when old, good acquaintances appeared on screen. Therefore, it’s even more apparent that this film was made with them in mind: enthusiasts of the series will find themselves here without any problem. However, the fact remains that everyone else won’t feel at home here. The latest Saw is unwatchable cinema, the kind that can’t be experienced without covering your eyes. Is it a recommendation or an attempt to discourage the reader from going to the cinema? It depends on your attitude toward this unbearably macabre series.

Jan Tracz

Jan Tracz

A journalist with four years of experience in the cultural industry (film, music, literature, politics). Writer for respected Polish and English sites and magazines, interviewed most famous stars, writers, actors, talents, directors and musicians (incl. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lasse Hallström, Matthew Lewis, David Thomson, Richard Dyer, Rachel Shenton, Tom Wlaschiha, Lena Olin, Jenna Elfman, Lennie James, Yannick Bisson, Ximena Lamadrid, Malcolm Storry, Alexandra Savior). Current Film Studies MA student at King's College London.

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