An idyllic movie shoot becomes a terrifying nightmare for the cast and crew in Ti West’s latest, which pays homage to some classic 70’s horror greats.
All Maxine Minx wants to do is be a star, and now is the time that opportunity has arrived. Her boyfriend Wayne decides to shoot an adult film along with actors Jackson and Bobbi-Lynne as well as aspiring director RJ and his girlfriend Lorraine, who is in charge of sound. For Wayne. It’s about tapping the potential home video market while for RJ, he plans to make it more than an adult film, but a cinematic masterpiece.
Wayne rents out a guest house on a farm run by Howard and Pearl. Pearl is infatuated with Maxine the moment she lays eyes on her. As for Howard, he is none too thrilled with Wayne and the crew. As shooting begins, Pearl finds herself excited and when Howard refuses due to a heart condition, Pearl is upset. When Lorraine decides to take part in the film, an angry RJ decides to sneak off and head home. However, Pearl makes sure RJ doesn’t leave and soon enough, the elderly couple’s true natures are revealed, and the film crew find themselves in a world they have never expected to be as they are picked off one by one.
For his latest horror opus, Ti West delves into the world of 1970’s terror, in particular one of the greatest atmospheric horror films of its time, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While there is no chainsaw here, it is the way West films that brings to mind this particular film. When we see the crew in the van on their way to the farm, it brings to mind Sally Hardesty and her friends in TCSM just talking in the van on their way to the graveyard and then to Sally’s family home.
The cast is excellent in the film. Mia Goth pulls double duty as both Maxine and the evil wife Pearl, the latter under impressive make-up with Australian actor Stephen Ure as her husband Howard, who while refusing to bed her due to his condition, shows his loyalty by helping Pearl kill off everyone. Martin Henderson attempts his best Matthew McConaughey as Maxine’s boyfriend and film producer Wayne while Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi plays the well, “token guy of color” in Jackson while Brittany Snow channels her inner Amber von Tussle in Bobbi-Lynne. Owen Campbell and Jenni Ortega round out the cast with the latter making somewhat more of an impact in more ways than one.
This film is the definition of modern exploitation. There is some gratuitous lovemaking in the film, one where Maxine is shooting a scene with Jackson, in which Pearl begins to peek and get aroused. This leads to one of the most shocking scenes in between some of Howard’s killings. It eventually becomes the catalyst for the terror we are given. From a stabbing to bludgeoning and a scene that pays homage to another Tobe Hooper-directed film, Eaten Alive, the kill scenes are at times over the top but very brutal as well. The finale is a shock and a hoot at the same time.
X is definitely a fantastic opus of a horror tale. Using the 70’s as a reference, Ti West delivers the goods and at times, draws the boundaries and carefully overstepping them without too much chaos. Well, except the death scenes. The slow burn is definitely worth the wait.
WFG RATING: A+
A24 presents a Bron production in association with Little Lamb and Mad Solar Productions. Director: Ti West. Producers: Ti West, Jacob Jaffke, Kevin Turen, and Harrison Kress. Writer: Ti West. Cinematography: Eliot Rocket. Editing: Ti West and David Kashevaroff.
Cast: Mia Goth, Jenni Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Scott Mescudi, Stephen Ure.