Warning: Major Spoilers for Saw X below!
- Saw X reinvents Jigsaw by humanizing him even further, showing him as a victim of a medical scam and making him into a Punisher-like anti-hero.
- The Saw franchise had become predictable, following a formula of new games and twist endings, but Saw X finds new ways to address this and adds something fresh to the series.
- Saw X focuses on John Kramer, stripping away his slasher movie legend and showing him as a person with a deep belief in awakening others to appreciate life, even at the risk of his own.
Saw X finally reinvents Jigsaw in exactly the way that the Saw franchise has needed since its early days. John Kramer a.k.a. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is the central figure of the Saw franchise, a civil engineer whose cancer diagnosis completely changes his outlook on life, leading him to put people through harrowing “games” to test their will to survive. While the Saw movies are horrifically bloody, the franchise has always framed Kramer not as a killer, but more as a philosopher trying to awaken people into appreciating their lives again.
While that message has always been at the forefront of the Saw movie franchise, it gradually lost much of its potency amid the blood and carnage of the Saw films. However, nearly two decades after the original Saw was released, Saw X tells a new story with Kramer, set between Saw and Saw II, that shows both him and his philosophy from a fresh new angle. Here is how Saw X re-invents Jigsaw, and why it is exactly the kind of franchise revival the Saw movies have been waiting for.
Saw X’s Portrayal Of Jigsaw Is Why The Franchise Has Been Revived So Strongly
John Kramer has long been an unusually humanized horror movie villain due to his terminal cancer, but Saw X takes it further than ever with Kramer being a victim on a whole different level. After traveling to Mexico for what he thinks is an operation that will rid him of his brain tumor, Kramer comes to learn the medical team who presented themselves as Robin Hood and his merry men are scam artists who conned him. Even worse, they’ve pulled the same con on dozens of other sick people desperately searching for cures for the past eight years.
By presenting Kramer’s test subjects as genuinely horrible people, the Saw franchise takes its core concept of “What would you do?” to a whole new level. In taking Jigsaw’s perspective from the ground up, Saw X re-imagines Kramer into a Punisher-like anti-hero, which is arguably the most logical natural conclusion of how he sees himself. That new framework for Jigsaw is just what Saw needed to add something fresh to the formula. Indeed, the formula was part of what had kept the series from evolving for so long.
The Saw Movies Have Developed A Predictable Formula
The first Saw introduced a completely new gimmick into horror movies by having Jigsaw kidnap his subjects without doing them any harm himself, instead placing them into traps that require them to inflict horrific bodily harm on themselves in order to survive. While that helped make the Saw franchise into the pre-eminent torture porn series, it also established some very firm expectations for what a Saw movie entails. In general, a Saw movie involves Jigsaw rounding up his subjects, starting a new game, and a twist ending providing a shocking new revelation at the end.
That’s not to say the Saw franchise did not take any interesting twists or turns along the way. The gimmick of Kramer dying in Saw III in particular gave the Saw movies the novelty of being perhaps the first posthumous slasher movie franchise. Still, the general layout of a Saw movie remained largely consistent even after Kramer’s demise. Saw X finds the best ways possible to address this.
How Saw X Is The Change The Saw Franchise Needed
More so than any other Saw movie, Saw X is a John Kramer story. Right from the beginning, Kramer’s battle with his cancer and the shattering news that his death is just months away strips off his slasher movie legend and shows him as a person. The sad reality is that scams like the one Kramer encounters in his search for cancer treatment are hardly the stuff of Hollywood fantasy. The difference is that Kramer’s cancer has changed him so much that he cannot stand by and watch other innocent people be duped by the same con artists who tricked him.
At the same time, for all his rage at being taken advantage of, Kramer still sees the people who cheated him in the same way as he does his other test subjects – people wasting the gift of life who need to be awakened to how much they take everything they have for granted, including the trust of others. Kramer’s methodology of conveying that message is undeniably extreme, but Saw X boils it down so effectively because its re-vamping of Kramer into his most proactive role ever shows how deeply he believes in what he is doing.
Saw X’s ending also takes another unexpected turn by placing Kramer into one of his own traps for the first time – specifically, a waterboarding device that dumps gallons upon gallons of blood. While Saw X eventually reveals it was always part of Kramer’s plan as a way to manipulate Cecilia (Synnøve Macody Lund) and Parker (Steven Brand) to where he wants them, Kramer quite literally risks drowning in a waterfall of blood to prevent Carlos (Jorge Briseño) from being bloodboarded. In doing so, Saw X both presents Kramer’s first genuinely heroic act and shows that Jigsaw won’t ask his subjects to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.
Where Could Saw Go After Saw X?
The Saw franchise already wrapped up its first seven movies with Kramer dead for four of them, but Saw X demonstrates just how vital he is to the series. The same goes for Jigsaw’s apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), with Saw X being the first Saw movie to center on the two working together in a largely harmonious partnership. The acclaim and box office success of Saw X arguably make more stories with Kramer and Amanda prior to their deaths in Saw III the best route to take, and the movie leaves one loose thread hanging that could hint at where Saw 11 might go.
While nearly everyone in the medical scam dies in Kramer’s traps, Cecilia is still alive at the end. Saw X‘s end-credits scene also shows Kramer and Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) placing phony cancer survivor Henry Kessler (Michael Beach) into a trap for his role in the scam, without showing if he dies or not. Cecilia is shown to be such a monster that she’d be likely to seek revenge on Kramer and Amanda, and that could set up the two luring her into another game, most especially for her cold-blooded murder of her more innocent accomplice Gabriela (Renata Vaca).
Alternatively, Saw 11 could also show Cecilia and possibly still alive Henry as genuinely reformed by the experience, and becoming Kramer’s newest accomplices. With Amanda Young and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) joining Kramer after surviving their games, it’s clear he really has a talent for bringing people to his side after putting them through such a trial by fire. Ultimately, both options are open to Saw 11 precisely because Saw X takes Jigsaw into such new territory, with Tobin Bell portraying him as John Kramer first and Jigsaw second.