X (Movie Review)

In 2022, Ti West’s X is one of the year’s more memorable Horror films. Building on his solid reputation for Horror that he earned with films such as 2009’s The House of the Devil and 2013’s The Sacrament, X is a much more exuberant affair than his previous films. Heavily influenced by exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s, X focuses on a group of young adults setting out to make a porno film for the lucrative adult entertainment movie market. 

X movie still

Released in theaters back on March 18th and on Blu-ray and DVD May 24th via A24 and Lionsgate, the story’s protagonist is Maxine (Mia Goth: Nymphomaniac 2013, Suspiria 2018), who alone with her Producer and boyfriend Wayne (Martin Henderson: The Ring 2002, Smokin’ Aces 2006), Actors Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow: Prom Night 2008, Would You Rather 2013) and Jackson (Kid Cudi: Need for Speed 2014, Westworld series), Director RJ (Owen Campbell: As You Are 2016, Super Dark Times 2017) as well as his girlfriend Lorainne (Jenna Ortega: The Babysitter: Killer Queen 2020, The Fallout 2021), seek out a place to film their endeavor in rural Texas. They rent out a building on a derelict farmstead run by elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012, Deathgasm 2015) and Pearl (Goth), and surreptitiously plan to shoot with the property owners none the wiser of their true intentions. Inevitably, things don’t go as planned, and the crew has to contend with an increasingly jealous Pearl, dissension in their own ranks, and the dangers of being out in the middle of nowhere with psychopaths. 

The first thing Horror fans will notice about X is how it is filmed. The color palette and washed-out look of dry rural Texas is very reminiscent of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other low budget films of that decade. The film is clearly a passion project of a fan of ’70s excess, and West does a good job of not falling too far into nostalgia at the expense of an original story. The characters are mostly memorable, at least the ones who matter are. Goth especially deserves praise here as both Maxine and the bitter, elderly Pearl, whom many fans didn’t recognize as Goth until the end credits. The way the two women are juxtaposed in life is essentially the heart of the story.

X movie still

The supporting cast does a fine job in their roles. Rapper Kid Cudi (credited as Scott Mescudi) does a good job playing the amusingly named Jackson Hole, the sole male actor in the porno. His character is a former marine, and as he says at one point in the film, “I’m built for this line of work.” Cudi fits into his role seamlessly and feels like the most natural character in the film. Brittany Snow, no stranger to Horror herself, plays a strong lead. She later strikes up a relationship with Cudi, and the two share a very relatable moment singing “Landslide” with Jackson on guitar. 

As far as everything else, the violence is there in X and it’s brutal when it rears its head. Pearl is an interesting Horror villain not just because her physicality ought to conflict with her old and slight stature and doesn’t, but because her personality is rooted in a very human issue. Even though Pearl is crazy, she laments her missed opportunities and deferred dreams, in addition to being more aware of her mortality. As one would imagine, the nudity and sexual content are also graphic, and West makes sure to get away with as much as he can in that department. 

The audience will know a lot of what’s coming. Between the isolation, Checkhov’s alligator, and the reputation of gun-toting hillbillies in Horror films, it might sound like old hat on paper. But instead it never feels like it’s trying too hard and comes out better for it. In a time where every piece of entertainment tries to be subversive, X does so in the right places and never crosses over into lecturing as so many do. There are enough surprises here to keep the interest and tension high throughout.

X movie still 

Overall X is a solid package that delivers most of what it was supposed to. Blood and guts and some memorable kills to go along with the sex makes for an entertaining throwback/nostalgia film from a time when everything seemed so much more fun. Ti West continues to establish himself as a big name in modern Horror, and the expansion of this film into a franchise bodes well for both he and Mia Goth and the Horror genre overall. X is one of the year’s best Horror films, and for that reason Crytpic Rock gives X 4 out of 5 stars. 

X Movie Poster/ A24   

Like the in-depth, diverse coverage of Cryptic Rock? Help us in support to keep the magazine going strong for years to come with a small donation.

No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *