Pearl (Movie Review)

Pearl (Movie Review)

A good prequel ought to shed light on a story that has elements wanting to be discovered. Too often they are made for the sake of making more money, which might be a good business practice, but is not necessarily good for the prestige of franchises in the long run because they feel hollow. Thankfully, such is not the case with Pearl, which is likely one of the best Horror films of 2022. 

For those unaware, Pearl is the surprise follow-up prequel to Ti West’s earlier 2022 release, X, itself one of the better Horror films of the year. Released in theaters back on September 16th and  to Blu-ray/DVD/Digital November 15th through A24 and Lionsgate, Pearl’s production began immediately after X finished, and that seems to have been a good idea with the characters and story fresh in the minds of the filmmakers and its star, Mia Goth (Suspiria 2018, Mayday 2021). Goth, who also co-wrote, once again has a lot on her shoulders in this film, as she played both the main protagonist and antagonist in X, and she does a stellar job.

The origin of the bitter, murderous, old lady we knew little of in X starts in the year 1918, on a farm in rural Texas. Pearl is like many young women of her day – she has big dreams of moving to the big city and getting into show business. This was a difficult time in American and world history. The flu pandemic and the Great War have taken their toll on everyone. Pearl is married, and while her husband is serving on the Western Front, her dreams grow stronger. Unfortunately, the main obstacle in her way is her domineering mother, Ruth (Tandi Wright: Jack the Giant Slayer 2013, The Returned 2015). The man of the house, never named, is an invalid, and adds to the heavy burden Ruth and Pearl bear just to live.

Mia Goth in Pearl / A24 / Lionsgate

While it’s true Pearl has it rough with an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive mother, and husband who might be killed any day, one thing is painfully clear from the start – Pearl just isn’t right. She displays sociopathic tendencies and a severe lack of self-control, and when she allows her emotions to rule her, people die. Not even innocent farm animals are safe from her hair-trigger temper. Despite that, Pearl is solely focused on getting out of her farm life. She finds her opportunity to do so when she learns of an audition for a chorus girl from her sister-in-law, Misty (Emma Jenkins-Purro: My Life Is Murder series, One Of Us Is Lying series). Seeing this as her golden opportunity to escape her family, it’s a hard line in the sand for Pearl, and she protects it at the expense of everything.

These factors in mind, Mia Goth herself gives a great performance here. Pearl has feelings that are common – the want to be seen, the need to realize your dreams – but all of it is tainted with her mental illness. She has all the confidence and drive one can hope for, but would never make it in that world with such an emotionally fragile mind. Her ability to simultaneously build up her own hopes and delude herself would be sadder if she wasn’t a killer, but Pearl is nonetheless a somewhat sympathetic character because she still tries to live the hero’s journey, futile as the attempt may be. All of these layers are brought to life wonderfully by Goth, who more than succeeds at carrying the film. 

Mia Goth in Pearl / A24 / Lionsgate

Furthermore, the score of the film is also very solid. Like X, Pearl is co-composed by Tyler Bates (Dawn of the Dead 2004, John Wick 2014), who has an impressive resume in Horror. It’s a key component to a stylistic film like Pearl, and like the previous film, Bates’ work seems to fit the film perfectly. As for the director, Ti West is one who has a lot of style. He seems to take care in all the elements of his films, and his skill behind the camera always makes for a unique viewing experience. He’s the kind of filmmaker that Horror always does well to have; one who has a unique vision and a creative way to tell stories. 

Overall, there are a lot of things that make Pearl a good Horror film and they all come together well. Like X, this is oozing style in the right ways and is not left hanging by weak scripts. It does just about everything a prequel is supposed to do and serves as a great companion to X. This series is set to be a trilogy, with the last one, titled Maxxxine, yet unannounced release, but hopefully coming out in 2023. West and Goth have put a nice stamp on Horror in 2022 and should be proud of their work. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Pearl 4 out of 5 stars.

Pearl Movie Poster / A24 / Lionsgate

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Roger Maléspin
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Roger is a Writer and Editor born and raised in New York City. A lifelong bibliophile, he spends most of his time delving into stories or honing his craft. When not flexing the pen, he can be found in any number of bars and coffee shops around New York, drawing inspiration from the kaleidoscope of stories and experiences that make up the greatest city in the world. His love of the written word is nearly matched by his affinity for Horror movies, and he can quote from the classics up to today's films. Holding strong convictions rooted deep in the religion of Metal, do not be surprised if you run into him, literally, in a circle pit during a Metal show somewhere in the city.

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