REVIEW: X (2022)

Mia Goth’s Maxine from Ti West’s X — PHOTO: A24.

Directed by Ti West — Screenplay by Ti West.

Ti West’s X takes place in the late 1970s and follows a cast of pornographic actors — Maxine (played by Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (played by Brittany Snow), and Jackson (played by Scott Mescudi) — and a film crew — producer Wayne (played by Martin Henderson), ambitious amateur director R. J. (played by Owen Campbell), and R. J.’s girlfriend Lorraine (played by Jenna Ortega). They are on a road trip and are headed to a farmhouse, at which they intend to shoot their adult film. However, the owners of the house, an elderly couple, don’t know what they intend to film on their property, and the sight of Maxine awakens a disturbing lust inside the elderly woman that calls the farmhouse her home.

Early on it becomes quite clear what films Ti West was most inspired by. The whole farmhouse-in-the-middle-of-nowhere with a young-ish cast that runs into trouble unexpectedly is clearly borrowed heavily from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the film also made me think quite a bit about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, as the real danger for the core group of characters is what the elderly may get up to.

“I will not accept a life I do not deserve.”

And yet the film is much deeper than simply a period slasher that wears its inspirations on its sleeves. From start to finish, there is a focus on ambition and hopeful Hollywood dreams. The elderly woman is haunted by her past aspirations and the dream that passed her by, and the young cast and crew that are at the farmhouse to shoot a porn film hope to finally achieve stardom either in the film industry or the porn industry. It is a film about the allure of the American Dream, and what we’re okay doing (and doing on-screen) to get it.

“It is possible to make a good dirty movie.”

One character, at one point, calls out that Mia Goth’s Maxine has that X-Factor, which is obviously a nod to the title (which itself is a nod to XXX that indicates extreme or explicit content, which often refers to pornographic material). Their Hollywood-ized American Dream is contrasted by television screens showing a preacher proclaiming that they live in an increasingly secularized society. This film is essentially about an independent film crew and their search for stardom through perceived depravity on a farmhouse with its own dark, lustful secrets.

The cast is quite solid with Mia Goth pulling impressive double duty as Maxine and Pearl, the elderly woman (achieved through heavy make-up). Brittany Snow and Jenna Ortega are also quite good, with Ortega’s character’s brief arc probably being the deepest supporting character (these characters are merely two-dimensional).

Ti West’s period slasher film X, which is apparently the start of a slasher trilogy, is about religious fanaticism, sex positivity, aging, and the allure of the American Dream. Throughout, West achieves the right atmosphere through the look of the film, the soundscape, and some fun visual and editing touches (such as the shot of a croc chasing someone slowly through the water or the split-screen during Brittany Snow’s performance of “Landslide” that highlights how time can slip away and turn your dreams into regrets).

7.9 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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