After a wait of nearly 13 years since "Saw: The Final Chapter," the iconic franchise has made a return to its roots with "Saw X," taking its place as a direct midquel within the original "Saw" timeline, between the events of "Saw" I and II. Directed by the seasoned Kevin Greutert and co-written by Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, "Saw X" makes its mark as the 10th film in the franchise after standalones, "Jigsaw" (2017) and "Spiral: From The Book of Saw" (2021).

In this gripping instalment, John Kramer, the enigmatic mastermind known as Jigsaw, takes centre stage and finds himself grappling with his own mortality.

Afflicted with terminal cancer (a fact revealed by the end of "Saw I"), Kramer embarks on a desperate quest for a cure that leads him to the depths of Mexico. However, what initially appears as a glimmer of hope quickly transforms into a nightmare – the medical procedure done on him was revealed to be an elaborate scam, preying not only on him but also on society's most vulnerable individuals. In a way, they have violated Jigsaw’s most sacred principle of cherishing life – but this time, it is the lives of others that they have toyed with and therefore, did not cherish.

Armed with renewed purpose and an unwavering thirst for justice, Jigsaw unleashes his trademark deranged yet ingeniously crafted traps, setting the stage for an ultimate showdown against the con artists.

In this high-stakes game of survival, the balance between life and death rests on their determination to shed blood, no matter how painful, to secure their fates.

"Saw X," with its R rating attributed to its intense blood and gore themes, features an ensemble cast that includes Tobin Bell reprising his iconic role as Jigsaw, and Shawnee Smith, returning to her character as trap survivor and apprentice Amanda Young.

The cast also includes Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Michael Beach, Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernandez, Octavio Hinojosa, and Joshua Okamoto. Costas Mandylor is also set to make an appearance, returning to his fan-favourite role as Detective Hoffman, who is another one of Jigsaw's early disciples.

What sets 'Saw' apart

Beneath the surface of gore and violence, the "Saw" movies have always been known for their unique ability to delve into real-life horrors, infusing the horror genre with a dose of societal critique.

For example, in "Saw IV", the offenders subjected to Jigsaw's cruel games were individuals guilty of crimes like domestic violence, pimping, sexual abuse, and homicide. In "Saw V," it was a group of five individuals who found themselves at the crossroads after being directly involved in a catastrophic building fire, one that claimed the lives of eight people.

But perhaps one of the most chilling realities the franchise explores lies within "Saw VI." This chapter peels back the curtain on health insurance companies, shedding light on a subject that hits close to home for many. Jigsaw's own experience, which could mirror the reality of countless individuals, highlights how some insurance policies offer no lifeline at all and, instead, contribute to the demise of those in need.

Jigsaw’s plight serves as a reflection of the all-too-common reality where insurance claims are denied based on strict criteria, leaving individuals in desperate situations without the support they need. The lives that individuals entrust to these insurance companies for security and protection are reduced to mere statistics, determined by cold formulas that dictate their very survival.

Hence, in "Saw VI," it was William Easton, the senior vice president of the claims department at Umbrella Health Insurance, along with his direct associates, who found themselves subjected to the ultimate test. William, through a series of games, had to confront each challenge, which included the grim task of choosing which of his associates would live or die—a parallel to the decisions made in their daily work with insured individuals.

Now, with the latest instalment "Saw X" immersing viewers in the horrors of healthcare fraud and compelling them to experience the protagonist's loss of hope and trust, it is a reminder that true horror isn't solely confined to the screen. It's a reflection of our own world and is a type of horror that lingers long after the final trap has sprung.

Why 'Saw' remains a horror favourite

For viewers who can look beyond the blood and brutality, they'll discover a rich tapestry in the "Saw" movies that elevates them beyond traditional horror flicks.

The spine-tingling musical scores, expertly composed by Charlie Clouser, add an eerie and memorable backdrop, creating an unsettling atmosphere throughout.

Variations of Clouser's original soundtrack for the "Saw" films, such as "Hello Zepp" and "Sh*thole," have become iconic cues, signalling the most exciting revelations and twists within the Film.

The franchise's remarkable attention to detail and continuity is also a significant contributor to its addictive quality and binge-worthiness. Subtle connections and nods to earlier instalments offer a delightful treat for devoted fans.

Beyond the violence, a compelling storyline delves deep into the intricate psychology behind Jigsaw's gruesome games. His principle, stating that those who do not appreciate life do not deserve it, underscores the chilling and profound nature of his philosophy. His words, "Most people are so ungrateful to be alive.

But not you, not anymore," resonate with viewers, capturing the essence of "Saw"'s unsettling brand of horror. It makes viewers confront not only the fate of the characters on screen but also the unsettling facets of their own lives.

Yet, the irony in his philosophy cannot be overlooked – as he insists he's never taken a life and finds "killing distasteful," all while deliberately subjecting individuals to his deadly games and believing it to be for the greater good. This contradiction is what makes "Saw" the perfect horror, where each trap forces both characters and viewers to grapple with the value of life itself, all under the gaze of Jigsaw's flawed yet compelling moral code.

Couple this with his chilling voice, piercing stares, as well as his unmatched intelligence and knack for innovation through his intricate devices, and we have the ultimate anti-hero.

One who sees himself as a person of virtue, believing he does no wrong, even when the evidence indicates otherwise.

And yet the audience can't help but still be enthralled by his actions and find themselves rooting for him despite their better judgment. Such intricate philosophy inspired other art forms that dive deeper into Jigsaw’s thinking, such as the book “The Cutting Edge” by C.J. Patton that “compares the philosophical concepts [of the "Saw" movies] to the views of many philosophers throughout history, and demonstrating that they convey a fascinating blend of traditional and innovative philosophical thought.”

Impressive marketing strategy

As it has been awhile since "Saw" has returned to the big screen, the marketing team of "Saw X" has gone above and beyond, breathing life into the franchise in various ways.

One of the most impactful traditions upheld by the team is the Blood Drive. This enduring tradition, dating back to the original 2004 film, allows fans to donate blood to support local blood banks. In return, donors receive free movie tickets, providing a meaningful way for fans to engage with the franchise. This tradition has been a consistent feature for most "Saw" films, with the exception of "Spiral: From The Book Of Saw," which was temporarily halted due to the pandemic. Beyond its promotional value, the "Blood Drive" exemplifies the franchise's commitment to making a positive impact beyond the silver screen.

"Saw"-inspired escape rooms have also made a thrilling return, allowing fans to immerse themselves in the macabre world of "Saw".

For those in need of a caffeine boost or pre-workout energy, "Saw X" has introduced "Saw"-inspired coffees and drinks that are sure to jolt the senses. "Saw X" has also extended its reach into the virtual world, bringing the "Saw" experience to Roblox, a gaming platform with millions of players. "Saw X: Survive the Obby" invites players to navigate Jigsaw's challenges in a new and interactive way, further cementing the franchise's legacy.

Collaborations with Snapchat have resulted in AR filters that transport users into one of "Saw X"’s traps, providing a spine-tingling interactive experience. Even Billy the puppet, one of the franchise's most iconic characters, has made cameo appearances on actual news broadcasts on television, blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

This comprehensive marketing campaign not only allures new viewers but also rekindles the interest of long-time fans, successfully drawing them back into the franchise's captivating world.

Now showing in cinemas

"Saw X" is currently screening in cinemas worldwide. This instalment pays homage to the earlier films in terms of style but distinctly shifts the spotlight onto John Kramer's character, setting it apart from previous entries where the games took centre stage. With a runtime of 1 hour and 58 minutes, it holds the record as the franchise's lengthiest instalment to date.

Initial reviews paint a promising picture, with several critics dubbing "Saw X" as a possible contender for the best sequel in the franchise.

On its opening night, "Saw X" secured the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating out of all the films in its franchise, with an impressive score of 82%

Viewers could be in for an enthralling and emotionally charged experience, as "Saw X" delves into new dimensions of John's character that have never been explored before.