I can’t believe it’s been nearly 20 years since James Wan’s original “Saw” from 2004 began a franchise that changed horror and challenged horror fans to embrace a new kind of terror.
It justifiably made star Tobin Bell a star for his portrayal of John “Jigsaw” Kramer, an engineer who is the mastermind of ghastly puzzle devices that essentially are torture contraptions that, upon leaving the victim alive, also leave them maimed for life.
The “Saw” movies haven’t been released in order. There were seven from 2004 to 2010, and then there were reboots and a spinoff.
“Saw X” goes back to the original premise. It fits somewhere between “Saw” and “Saw III” if you’d care to watch them in a linear fashion.
It’s so well-written, and it has more heart – and I don’t mean that in a gruesome way – than the other movies do. That’s because Bell is back in a kind of origins story.
Jigsaw is a vigilante who dreams up ways to torment others who, in his mind, deserve it. Also back is his accomplice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) who believes in Jigsaw’s “purpose.”
Because he has cancer, Jigsaw – a much more sympathetic character this time around – goes to Mexico, where he seeks an experimental treatment.
What Jigsaw does next makes sense, and gives us more insight into his sadistic “game.”
The movie has the feeling of being stretched – two hours is a lot. His captives spend a lot of time arguing and screaming at each other while they try to figure out what’s happening to them.
But Bell never ceases to entertain. He’s onscreen most of the time, and he owns the movie when he is. His multi-dimensional character is the reason to see this.
Longtime fans will find the 10th episode, with Bell’s great performance, really has teeth.
3 ½ stars
Running time: Two hours.
Only in theaters.
Rated: R for foul language, graphic violence and gore.
Watch the trailer here.