Plot: What’s it about?
I recently rewatched the first Saw movie and had forgotten that it wasn’t simply a flash in the pan. It was a bona fide horror movie that stuck with you long after the credits rolled. And it makes one think: what would we truly be willing to do to save our own life? Would you cut off a leg? Scar your body? Lose a sense? Hopefully (and thankfully) those are questions that none of us should have to answer in our lifetimes. But back in 2004 this series was unheard of and its writer Leigh Whannell and director (James Wan) came up with a truly unique idea that would lead to (as of this writing) nine more sequels. Though Saw X is more of a prequel (the events take place between the events of Saw and Saw II), we know, by now, what to expect. Originally devised as Saw IX, this took a backseat to Spiral, when Chris Rock approached the filmmakers about what a fan he was of the series – hence we got that film and this one sat on the back burner for a few more years. Enough with the suspense, let’s get to it.
As mentioned above, this film essentially dismisses all of the the other films in the series except the first as this is a direct follow-up to the first and a precursor to the second. Got it? Great, let’s move on. John Kramer (Tobin Bell) has terminal brain cancer and it’s put a damper on him, you know, killing people (though as he says in the film, he never kills – just offers choices). He gets word from a support group member of a private clinic in Mexico that might have the literal cure to all of his troubles. He empties his bank account to make the journey there and meets Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) who promises him a miracle cure. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that things don’t exactly end up the way John imagined and it’s not long after that the cast members we meet find themselves in a room “playing a game.” He doesn’t do this alone, trusty sidekick Amanda (Shawnee Smith, sporting what can only be described as the world’s worst haircut) is there to assist. It’s as this point that we ask ourselves – who are we really rooting for?
I enjoyed this one. That’s not to say that I did’t enjoy the previous ones, but the all started to run together. In this we get a good back/origin story that shows us why John is the way he is (as well as with Jigsaw) and some of the battles he’s had to fight along the way. Tobin Bell has been plying this role for the better part of two decades, but it’s here where he really shines. And as an octogenarian, he does quite well with his role. For those that are wanting more of the same, we’ve got that. And I mentioned this out loud while watching – I’d really hate to meet the people who come up with these tortures. And if you’re looking for a more human side of John, we’ve got that as well. Of note, don’t forget to stay along for the ride as a post-credits sequence does answer one burning question I had.
Video: How’s it look?
As is the case with horror movies in general as well as this particular franchise, Saw X doesn’t steer too far away from its predecessors. It’s a very dark movie. The 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image handles the darkness with relative ease, however. Shadows are lacking in artifacting and contrast seems strong. Detail is, as we’d expect, razor sharp and this is of utmost importance when you’re being forced to give yourself brain surgery or cut off a leg in order to live. A few of the interior shots had a bit of a softness to them around the edges, but aside from that it’s a great-looking film and one that’ll certainly satisfy blood-thirsty fans.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Lionsgate’s Dolby Atmos track makes liberal use of all the channels. Vocals, in particular Tobin Bell’s raspy, deep voice, sound the part though in this particular segment, we get more of John Kramer and less of “Jigsaw.” Some surround effects add for some extra emphasis which again is a good thing when you have people scrambling to figure out how to save their own lives. The thing that impressed me were the atmospheric effects that really bring the viewer into the film. In essence, it’s more of the same – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director-Editor Kevin Greutert, Cinematographer Nick Matthews, and Production Designer Anthony Stabley collaborate for what I thought was a pretty good track. Granted, if you watch all of the included supplements some of it does become a bit repetitive. Still, the origins of the story are all there along with casting, location and so forth. Fans of the series should love it.
- Reawakening – A six-part “documentary” that’s more along the lines of half a dozen separate featurettes. We know the drill, all the bases are covered here.
- I Want to Play a Game: Bleeding New Life into the Saga
- This Time It’s Personal: Characters and Casting
- Another Time, Another Place: Locations and Cinematography
- There Will Be Blood: Production Design and Make-up
- Leave Nothing to Chance: Post-Production
- Live or Die: Release and Legacy
- Drawing Inspiration: Illustrated Scene Breakdowns – Director-Editor Kevin Greutert gives us some ideas and visuals as to some of the key sequences in the film.
- Make-Up Department Trap Tests – Essentially just that. We get a look at some of what it takes to make these characters oh so spooky.
- Deleted Scenes – Given the film’s runtime, I felt a few of these could have been included. Nevertheless, we’ve got plenty to choose from that add a bit to the story as a whole.
- SC 9: Passage of Time
- SC 16: John Consults with William
- SC 19: John Packs and Leaves Apartment
- SC 31 Help Me Cheat Death
- SC 36: John Gets Injections
- SC 41-42: Gabriela Makes Breakfast, Valentina Takes Blood
- SC 63: John Tries to Find Dr. Cortez
- SC 70: John Interrogates Diego
- SC Wake Up in Main Text – Full Length
- SC 100: That’s Now How We Do Things
- SC 107: Parker Unchained, John Wayne Gacy
- SC 114: Team of Specialists Flashback
- SC 141: Cecilia Escapes, Post-Credits Version
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
This is, you guessed it, the tenth entry in a film series that dates back to 2004. By now you know if these movies are for you. While we do see a much more human side of John Kramer (aka “Jigsaw”), don’t worry – the filmmakers have devised a new set of awful ways to die for our viewing enjoyment. Lionsgate’s disc, as expected, looks and sounds good.