Movie Review: ‘X’

Director: Ti West

Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, Scott Mescudi

Plot: A small group of intrepid film-makers rent a cabin in in rural Texas to shoot a pornographic movie. The elderly couple who own the cabin, however, have their own sexual problems and lash out in violent ways.

Review: First off, don’t give you movie title a single letter title. It makes it awkward to discuss with people, because you have to clarify that you’re talking about “a movie called X“, whether you’re looking it up on Google or an actual real person. This is not how you create SEO. At least throw a subtitle in, like Q: The Winged Serpent, to help us out. I know Fritz Lang did it with M, but there’s a reason no-one has done that since 1931.

Ok, got that off my chest. I can talk about the movie now. Much of the discussion surrounding this movie has compared it to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and whilst the sepia visual tones and time period matches it doesn’t have the same tone. X feels more like the slasher movies that followed with creative ironic deaths featuring watch appears to be practical gore effects. As a tribute to this style of horror films, it hits the mark in the most delightful way. Giving the in-film porn footage a more stylised look compared to the ‘read events’ really helps evoke that era of cinema.

Our main character is aspiring adult film star Maxine Minx (Goth), whose career is being driven by her supportive producer boyfriend Wayne (Henderson) and cocaine. Along with their director, his girlfriend and another pair of performers, they’re heading out to Texas to film a farm based erotic art film. Their ambition is to ride the success of the establishing home video market (which in hindsight was a solid investment), with Maxine’s unexplainable ‘x factor’ putting her on the path to stardom. During their shoot we get some solid dynamics and dialogue between the six main characters, making them feel much more realistic and interesting than the usual slasher victims.

The other main characters are the elderly couple renting them the cabin, one of which is also played by Goth in mostly convincing prosthetics. It is initially set up that they’re going to discover the illicit film-making and this will be the source of conflict, but it comes from an internal issue. Pearl (Goth) is sexually frustrated as Howard (Ure) fears that any intercourse could trigger a heart attack, and she resents her age. Having been rejected by Howard and Maxine, Pearl’s loneliness drives her to attack the group of friends. Now the film crew and performers have to try and survive the creepy pair as they are stalked through the farm.

This is a very good looking film. At times it feels like the porn director RJ (Campbell) is taking the piss out of art cinema, but X excels in its cinematography and unorthodox framing. A couple of long, overhead shots of Maxine swimming in the lake, the use of shadows and silhouette and restricted light sources during the night scenes (including a comedic framing of Mescudi in one particular scene), and the bright garish blood all works to elevate the film above the schlock we often get in horror movies. There is a recurring motif of quick cuts back and forth between two locations, but it’s used so frequently that it starts to lose meaning and begins to feel tiresome.

It’s not an especially original take on the slasher style of horror, but it’s a damn fine one. They’ve revealed that a prequel film name Pearl was shot alongside X, so that’s something we’ll be looking forward to.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN