Wednesday, November 29, 2023

[The Midnight Horror] - The Real Jigsaw Returns in "SAW X"

It's hard to believe that the Saw series is almost twenty years old. The series has ten films—technically, Jigsaw and Spiral are more like spinoffs—but ten movies is a lot. In my opinion, the first three films were the greatest, and—spoiler alert—John Kramer (Jigsaw) and his apprentice Amanda met their gruesome demise at the end of Saw III—though whether Amanda died from a bullet neck wound continues to be debated among fans. Even though Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith are now twenty years older than the characters they portray, I was ecstatic to see them return to their roles as John and Amanda in Saw X, a prequel set between Saw and Saw II. As you might be wondering, no CGI de-aging was employed—just simply classic make-up techniques and, for Shawnee Smith, an unrealistic wig—more on that later.
Did I watch Saw X in the theaters? Nope. The nearest screens are miles away, and I don't travel as frequently as I used to, so I wait for movies to arrive on streaming services or physical media. Contrary to what mainstream media, so-called internet journalists, and Best Buy may claim, physical media is not going away anytime soon; nevertheless, where you buy movies is shifting from in-store to online only. That is, at least, my view.

Returning to the topic, I recently viewed Saw X on *Blu-ray (+ DVD + Digital) from Lionsgate. (You can also get it on *4K UHD and *DVD.) include an audio commentary with director-editor Kevin Greutert, cinematographer Nick Matthews, and production designer Anthony Stabley; Rewakening—the making-of documentary; drawing inspiration; make-up department trap tests; deleted scenes; and the theatrical trailer. The bundled digital code is redeemable via Apple TV or VUDU. (*Paid Links)

Without a doubt, no true Saw fan didn't know the plot of Saw X months before the theatrical release. The director, writers, and producers said early on that the film was a prequel set before Saw II, starring Tobin Bell as John Kramer. The fundamental storyline reads as follows: In an attempt to treat his cancer, John goes to Mexico for a dangerous experimental medical treatment. As it turns out, Cecilla (played by Synnøve Macody Lunda) and her colleagues are scam artists, and John learns about their evil methods following the "faux" operation. Full of wrath and a need for vengeance, he enlists Amanda's assistance in his quest for revenge, setting up a series of brilliant, horrifying, and graphic Jigsaw traps for the con artists.

The film unfolds just as you might expect; however, there is more character development for John Kramer—it is the most screen time and dialogue Tobin Bell has had in the series. Amanda appears as a supporting henchman and is significantly more emotional than in Saw III, which says a lot. Shawnee Smith gives her best in her performance, but her horrible wig is a distraction—one that I didn't care for.

In the end, Saw X has the same tone and visuals as any Saw film, and Tobin Bell is back as John Kramer. Under the gore and blood (there is a lot of it), there is a good story, although a nasty one, that keeps you interested throughout the film's 118 minutes. (Folks, I'm clocking in the credits here.) There's a mid-credit scene where a particular detective makes a brief appearance. (Or ought I to say, apprentice?) Overall, Saw X is the strongest entry in the franchise since Saw III. Let's hope the filmmakers will maintain this kind of storytelling in future follow-ups since we all know Saw XI and Saw XII are coming sooner rather than later. ╌★★★★✰

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