Saw X review: Tobin Bell gives the performance of his career

Saw X slots in nicely between the first two movies and allows Tobin Bell to deliver a surprisingly emotional performance.

Saw X lead actor Tobin Bell looking at the camera at light up with blue lighting
(Image: © Lionsgate)

What to Watch Verdict

Saw X gives fans even more insight into Jigsaw's personal life and motivations, with a career-best performance from actor Tobin Bell.


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    Tobin Bell proves nobody can do Jigsaw quite like he can

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    Great to see Amanda back after all these years

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    Horrible characters placed in horrible situations, which is why you're here let's be honest

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    Inventive traps with lots of gore, great use of special effects

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    Darkly funny in places - just trust me on this!


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    Suffers from a few pacing issues in the third act

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    Some of the traps aren't as memorable as previous instalments

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    There's a post-credits scene which, while good, could've slotted in elsewhere

Saw X is the highly anticipated sequel in the popular Lionsgate horror franchise which has had audiences on the edge of their seats since 2004. 

A lot has happened since the first instalment, which saw two men chained to either side of a room with a dead body between them. Ever since that moment, horror fans have been captivated by the man known as The Jigsaw Killer. 

He has always been a unique figure in the horror universe due to the fact he claims he hasn't killed anyone, and therefore cannot be named a serial killer like the villains who run around hacking and slashing people. Instead, he puts people in scenarios where they're forced to do that to themselves.

It's a horrifying concept and one that has been successful enough to spawn 10 films, multiple escape rooms, and a theme park rollercoaster, so it's clear that Saw is alive and well, unlike some of the franchise's unlucky victims.

Interestingly, Saw X takes us back to basics and is set between the first two movies. By this point, we know who Jigsaw is, and that he's a seemingly ordinary man named John Kramer (Tobin Bell). He's been dealt a difficult hand, knowing that he has late-stage cancer and the additional family trauma of losing a child, which has motivated him to do the things he's become notorious for.

His entire modus operandi is punishing those who "don't appreciate life" or have behaved in an unjust or immoral way, leading him to target people to whom he wants to give a "second chance" at life. And in Saw X, he meets people who he really does think are immoral.

Knowing he only has a few months to live, John has almost lost hope until someone from his cancer support group approaches him to tell him about a "miracle cure" that has not yet been approved by the FDA. Intrigued, he goes off and researches it.

He's led to a woman named Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) who claims she's working with a team of experts who have successfully cured cancer patients. Both convinced and desperate, he heads to Mexico for treatment.

Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young wearing the iconic cloak and holding a pig mask

Shawnee Smith returns as apprentice Amanda Young. (Image credit: Lionsgate)

At first, things go according to plan and they operate on John, who then pays for the expensive treatment in full. Before he leaves Mexico he decides to stop by the facility with a thank-you gift, only to see that everyone has left. He then finds evidence that the whole thing was a scam, and he wasn't operated on at all.

And there we have the perfect motive, because hell hath no fury like John Kramer scorned, as we all know. So he teams up with his former victim turned apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), and the games begin.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about Saw X is just how much you can sympathize with John's ordeal, and genuinely feel sorry for him for being scammed. This is a real testament to the strength of Tobin Bell's performance, who brings a strange tenderness to the character. He's no immortal being, he is a dying man lashing out at the world around him. It's truly painful to watch.

Speaking of pain, his victims certainly receive a lot of that in some truly disgusting traps that won't be spoiled here but are very difficult to watch. Once again he's chosen horrifying "tests" to punish those who wronged him, mirroring their roles in the medical scam.

Everyone involved in the scam is awful and seems to have no sympathy for what they've been doing, yet you still find yourself watching the clock and hoping they'll manage to succeed, a weird contradiction that often happens when you're watching a Saw movie. This franchise really wants you to feel uncomfortable.

The traps are graphic and not for the faint of heart, but the special effects will be welcome for those who like the harrowing, gory nature of the franchise. While they're not as memorable as some of the iconic predecessors, the sequences will still have you on the edge of your seat.

Saw X analyzes John Kramer in a new way and exposes a softer, more vulnerable side to him which makes the way he blankly watches while his victims scream and beg even more terrifying. Teamed with Amanda who is learning the ropes and seems to be more emotionally charged than John, it's an interesting dynamic.

It's also funnier than its predecessors with some wonderfully ironic scenes and dialogue that again, won't be spoiled here, you'll just have to trust me on this one. Long-term fans are going to have a good time!

This instalment is certainly one of the better sequels but doesn't quite reach the high of Saw VI, which I have always considered to be my favorite Saw movie after the first one. 

Ultimately, Saw X is a very welcome return to form, and it's great to see Jigsaw back, who should never have been missing from the franchise in the first place.

Oh, and make sure you stick around for a post-credits scene that is very satisfying indeed, although it didn't really need to be tacked on the end like that!

Saw X is in theatres worldwide from Friday, September 29.

Lucy Buglass
Senior Staff Writer

Lucy joined the team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Now she works for our sister site TechRadar in the same role. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.

She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress