Saw X director talks secrets of horror sequel

Saw X was championed by fans as one of the best films in the horror franchise’s near-20-year-saga – and the key to its success, it turns out, was because behind the scenes, the filmmakers had grown frustrated by what the Saw mythology had become.

“Jigsaw is at the heart of this saga, and it had become unwieldy to include him in the films after the third, when he dies”, director Kevin Greutert explained to Zavvi. “We’d wound up with a very convoluted storyline, so by the time Saw 9 was in development, the makers of that film wanted to see if they could make a Saw movie without John or Billy the Puppet, which is how Spiral was born – and it just didn’t connect with people.

“Ultimately, without Tobin Bell as John Kramer, you don’t have a Saw movie. So we needed to go back to basics and write a story that took place when he’s still alive – it might not solve these storytelling issues for future Saw movies, but it was the perfect decision for Saw X.”

Taking place between the first two Saw movies, Saw X is the closest thing to an intimate character study of John Kramer, as the movie’s first half is taken up by his journey to Mexico, to undertake a expensive, experimental treatment that could cure his cancer. After coming to terms with a new lease on life that complicates his views on murderous revenge, he soon finds out it was too good to be true – he was scammed out of money, his illness still terminal.

Naturally, he does the thing he knows best: putting together several elaborate torture traps for all the people involved in the scam, so they can experience first-hand the fight to keep living when death is seconds away. There’s a simplicity to John Kramer’s motivations here, which Greutert explained is a way of writing the filmmakers’ past wrongs when it came to depicting his bloody revenge plots.

“I think the character started to drift a bit in the middle movies; we bought too much into the idea that he was helping people by putting them in torture traps, and I started to feel uncomfortable with that. There’s some validity to his vigilante view of the world, but ultimately, it’s not right to do what he was doing, and I felt the movies were sending out a mixed message about that!


“For this film, we concentrated more on the villainous characters and exploring them with more depth, so the audience can be more easily on board with his revenge, even if it’s still morally tainted – we do learn that some of them are more sympathetic than many other characters in the series. It’s more personal for John in how they’ve messed with him, but the magic of his character is in his moral contradictions, and we don’t want to spoil the magic by making him a completely sympathetic hero.

“We don’t want the audience to know when the cobra inside is going to strike. To pin down and define what his moral compass is might spoil some of the magic.”

Returning the character to his more simpler, yet no less morally complicated, form was a challenge – especially as, in those earlier films, Jigsaw is more of an idea than a character.


“I’ve always liked the very angry Jigsaw you see in the first Saw, but you don’t get to know him at all, you just feel his anger through that brilliant “I’m sick of people who don’t appreciate their blessing” monologue. I wanted to return him to that mindset, while also exploring something different; he isn’t that angry in Saw II, his personality there clashes with the first, and the reasons why that could be are what I was most eager to explore.”

Tobin Bell has returned to the role at 81, making him at least 20 years older than his screen character. This never presented an issue for the filmmakers though, as the director added: “In a lot of ways, this is Tobin’s life’s work, he’s such an important character in all of these movies, but especially this one.

“He has a huge amount of natural energy for his age. I saw him again a few weeks ago, and I’d been so used to looking at his face on my screen in the editing suite, with pale face makeup, that I forgot he was the picture of health – even I was deceived by his acting and makeup!”


As a Saw franchise veteran, who had previously made 2009’s Saw VI and 2010’s Saw 3D, Greutert is now desensitised to the over-the-top violence, despite being “really sensitive to blood” in real-life, and hopes the same of his casts; actors are auditioned with their “trap” scenes, so the filmmakers know how terrified their responses will be in the finished product.

Greutert is quick to say that those sequences are the most satisfying to pull off because they’re the most stressful, requiring the most effects work, not to mention placing the actors in unbelievably intense spaces for sustained amounts of time. This time around, however, there was one trap that proved more challenging than the rest.

“The trap when Valentina (Paulette Hernández) has to cut her leg off with a wire saw, that required so much testing and rehearsal. As scripted, that scene is over 20 minutes long, which is of course not all in the final cut, and isn’t entirely just her being tortured through that time – but she has to maintain a certain level of intensity throughout, which can be a challenge when shooting a scene over and over.


“The trap itself isn’t as much of a challenge, as we had a really good prosthetics company, Fractured FX, who came with us to Mexico. Although, it did take a lot of tries to make all the heads and torsos do what we wanted them to!”

After Saw X, is there any more John Kramer stories within the timeline? Greutert keeps his cards close to his chest, but aimed for his film to add more depth to other fan favourite characters, which could be where the future of the franchise lies.

Shawnee Smith’s Amanda Young, one of Jigsaw’s victims-turned-trusty accomplices, plays a key part in devising his plan here. The director hopes that this adds more depth to the way her personality drastically transforms within the franchise’s first three movies.


“I always felt there was some incompleteness in her story; she’s a victim in the first, working with him in the second, then doubting him by the third. I wanted to explore the period where she was a devotee but starting to have her doubts, with this representing the beginning of the end of her relationship with John.”

And then there’s a mid-credits scene teasing the return of Mark Hoffman, John Kramer’s other apprentice, who becomes the franchise’s eventual antagonist. Will we be exploring more of his backstory in future Saw movies?

“I would say anything’s possible”, Greutert hinted, “but we haven’t decided anything for sure about the future of Saw. We just know that we only want to keep making them if they keep being this good!”

Saw X is released on 4K on Monday, 11th December. Shop here.

Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.