A grotesque splash of blood, gore, and historical slasher references, Ti West’s X is meant for a big theater audience. Every dramatic scene, from the buildup of the first half to the absolute bloodbath of the second, are best enjoyed while gasping, laughing, cheering, and cowering in fear with a crowd of moviegoers.
X works largely because of its incredibly fun cast, led by Mia Goth and featuring rapper Kid Cudi, new generation final girl Jenna Ortega, and the pitch-perfect Brittany Snow. Characters are slayed in ways that are both packed with classic horror references and super creative and squirm-worthy. The costume and production design are both buried deep in the fun ’70s aesthetic, which visually adds balance to the film’s line between cheeky cinephile comedy and creepy farmstead chiller with ease.
Though not without its flaws, X still has unexpected merit in its depiction of the fears surrounding and rejection of aging, and the aesthetic novelty of youth. Mia Goth in dual roles as young adult film star Maxine and elderly, desire-filled murderer Pearl plays both brilliantly and terrifyingly, and Brittany Snow’s cover of “Landslide” adds to making this video nasty more than mindless. That acoustic scene serves as a turning point for the narrative, distinguishing the theme of youth and age, as the film switches from increasingly intense interactions with the old man on the farm and within the pornographic film crew, into full-blown gore and violence, streaking the untouched, open fields with blood.
X draws on its nasty slasher predecessors, with homages to the exceptionally violent Suspiria (1977) and the ever-terrifying The Shining (1980). The premise invites interpretations of it as a far more sexual Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but as a whole it manages to be very original, with a premise so enticing and bizarre it’s a lovely surprise that Ti West pulled it off so well. Though X doesn’t fully flesh out the ideas it envelops in its kills, it skillfully sets itself up for a highly anticipated sequel (MaXXXine) and plants seeds of meaning in its stunning cinematography. And the villain, Pearl, is so fascinatingly disturbing she begs for a depiction of her own backstory (see: Pearl, a fall 2022 release). She’s a modern classic killer, a perfect Halloween costume.
2022 was a phenomenal year for original, often mind-bending and thematically challenging horror. Though X was not as interesting and analytical as films like Nope and Skinamarink, it joins the ranks of Bodies Bodies Bodies as a fun, murderous 2022 thriller. Above all, X is an absolute crowd-pleaser and a cinema must-see, a bloody and gutsy good time that gives audiences something juicy to chew on.
dir. Ti West
Screens Saturday, 3/4 @ Brattle Theatre – click here for showtimes and ticket info!
Double feature w/ Pearl
Both films screening on 35mm in celebration of Reel Film Day!