John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back in a prequel that establishes his relationship with mentee Amanda (Shawnee Smith) to great effect.
Saw X wound up being one of the most pleasant horror surprises of the year (listen to my review with Trace Thurman on Horror Queers Patreon here). The tenth entry in the long running franchise acts as a bridge between the original film (2004) and its sequel (2005) as Kramer is lured to Mexico City for an experimental treatment to help his fatal cancer diagnosis.
Alas, it is revealed to be a ruse by a con artist doctor named Cecilia Pederson (Ragnarok‘s Synnøve Macody Lund), prompting John to take revenge on the woman and her crew using his trademark series of lethal traps.
With the release of the film on physical media, audiences are getting a closer look at the process for developing the film, including filming in Mexico for the first time, as well as preparing the traps and other fun trivia.
Here are some take-aways from the featurettes that include writer Josh Stolberg, as well as the audio commentary with editor/director Kevin Greutert, cinematographer Nick Matthews, and production designer Anthony Stabley:
- The use of the old Lionsgate Twisted Pictures logo was the last minute suggestion of fourteen year old Saw fan Cooper Stevenson, which the production team jumped at. It did irk the European exhibitors, though: the decision delayed the film’s delivery to them by one day.
- Composer Charlie Clouser had to develop a brand new process to score the film because Saw movies don’t typically involve “daylight or the outdoors”, and they’re not “sympathetic and hopeful.” The change in narrative and visuals required the composer to find “a ray of sunshine” score for the film’s first part; one that’s still tied to the “dark and ambient” Saw score fans know and love.
- The film was originally going to be shot in Bulgaria (to stand in for Norway)
- Tobin Bell has more screen time in Saw X than any previous Saw film (this is pretty evident if you’ve seen the film!)
- Bell does his own pass through on the script to improve “the John voice” – he’s that involved in the franchise and the depiction of the character by this point.
- Bell also doesn’t view John as a killer or a villain. He was particularly worried about John looking foolish for falling for Cecilia’s grift in this film.
- Stolberg and co-writer Peter Goldfinger regularly note the irony of John killing people with false hope.
- Stolberg’s favourite character to write is Amanda and his favourite trap in the series is the needle pit from Saw II. (Trace and I are also big fans. Listen to our Audio Commentary on Patreon for details)
- The production cast the first four actors they auditioned for the roles of Gabriela (Renata Vaca), Diego (Joshua Okamoto), Mateo (Octavio Hinojosa) and Valentina (Paulette Hernández)
- Parker Sears (Steven Brand) was originally written as more fiendish, but the role was pulled back during production to give him more nuance.
- Gabriela was also rewritten in order to firm up her connection with Amanda.
- Cinematographer Matthews is a big fan of Giallos, so he strove to incorporate a lot of lighting homages to his favourite subgenre. Each trap also has its own lighting (this is most evident in the extreme red lighting under the panel in the Blood Board sequence).
- Matthews was also very excited to shoot Billy the Puppet’s entrance. The tricycle riding fan favourite was a big hit with the cast and crew, who all wanted pictures.
- The blood board required 20 people from different units to operate.
- The actors were brought in six weeks early to test the traps and complete make-up tests. The most significant was Valentina, who required a fully body prosthetic, as well as a separate artificial leg to saw off.
- Both Greutert and Matthews got COVID when it came time to shoot scene 89, the extremely complicated introduction of the five new game participants as they wake up in the warehouse.
- This scene was originally 20 minutes long but wound up being edited down and altered as production went on.
- Valentina and Gabriela’s traps were the most difficult/complicated to shoot. Mateo’s was the easiest once Greutert was informed they could alternate between shooting the actor head on and using the overhead monitor to shoot the dummy from above.
- John’s introduction of Valentina’s trap and her unsuccessful effort to escape was originally seven minutes longer (much of it can be seen in the deleted scenes).
- Hernández’s performance during her trap sequence was so impressive that it encouraged all of the other performers to “up their game” to match her energy.
- Because Greutert is also the editor (and has worked on the franchise for 18 years) he knows exactly what to shoot so he has the footage when he edits. That often required a lot of extra coverage, which Bell would ask if they truly needed (Greutert reassured him that they did and claims in the audio commentary that you can see pieces of most of it in the finished film).
- The first cut of the film was 2 hour and 42 minutes, which was eventually pared down to two hours. Greutert believes no one wants a Saw film longer than that length.
- Putting Carlos (Jorge Briseño) in danger in the climactic blood board was months of work in the making because the franchise has typically refrained from involving kids in traps.
Saw X is now on 4K, Blu and Digital