“In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.”

Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Staring: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, James Gaylyn, Simon Prast, Geoff Dolan, Matthew J. Saville, Bryony Skillington
Rated: R
Release Date: March 18, 2022

This movie fucking rocked. X (2022) is immediately one of my favorite horror movies of the last few years. Director and writer Ti West creates a fantastic movie that is not only set in 1979, but feels like it is made from that time. The grunge sexiness with the gruesome violence forces the audience to ask a very serious and silly question: “Should i be as aroused as I am while I am this disturbed?”

X begins with a group of free-thinking individuals set on making a ground-breaking adult film on a small isolated farm somewhere in the deep Texas countryside. Maxine (Mia Goth) is the shy, but up-and-coming next big thing and is riding co-pilot to her boisterous partner and executive producer Wayne (Martin Henderson). He is driving this van of misfits to new found glory, and much of it relies on the incredibly outgoing and confident Bobby-Lynee (Brittany Snow), and her always mellow lover and Vietnam war veteran, Jackson (Kid Cudi). These stars of the pornography enterprise will be captured by by aspiring camera man RJ (Own Campbell) and his audio-tech handling girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega).

These band of pleasure seekers arrive at the farmstead and are greeted by Pearl (Mia Goth) and Howard (Stephen Ure). The elderly couple are odd, to say the least. Howard steps out of the door with a shotgun, to tensions are immediately high. He then tells Wayne that his wife, Pearl, is a bit of an odd duck, so be careful. Well Howard, that isn’t suspicious at all, is it?

Wayne hammers out the details and gets his crew squared away in their part of the property. From there, they begin making their adult film. For.a good thirty minutes, Ti West is blurring the lines with some tantalizing terror, teasing the audience with potential surprises while still delivering constant story telling. It is in these moments we learn a bit more about the characters and how they feel about the unique world they have found themselves in.

An all-important conversation happens when Maxine steps away from the set and runs into Pearl. The old lady welcomes her in like an old friend and gives her a cup of tea. Well, there is a bit more to that isn’t there?

The shit starts to hit the fan when RJ suddenly decides that he has had enough. His girlfriend Lorraine has become enamored with the idea of being on camera, and she asks to be in the film. RJ protests, but the rest of the cast and crew don’t do much to dissuade Lorraine from biting into some cardinal desires. RJ storms out of the house, hops into his van and plans on leaving everyone in the dust. The only thing in his way is Pearl.

Here is when the killing begins. RJ gets brutalized, and this sets off a chain reaction of killings. No longer is this a soft-core porno with some uneasiness. No X is a full fledged horror movie. Lorraine is trapped in the basement of Howard and Pearl’s house. Bobby-Lynee has a bit taken out of her and non of Jackson’s war experience can save him from the evil eyes of Howard. Wayne can’t keep his eyes on everyone, including his darling Maxine. In the end, it comes down to battle of duplicity, Maxine vs. Pearl. For all the marbles.

Mia Goth as Maxine and Martin Henderson as Wayne

I learned a few lessons from X.

First of all , Ti West knows how to make a horror movie. On the surface you can look at X as a straight slasher film and be very happy. It is fun, funny and scary. Everything you want from a horror movie experience. But to bring my buddy Shrek into this, X has layers. On one layer you have religious conservative backdrop clashing with the liberal free-thinking film makers. Diving deeper you have the duplicity theme with Mia Goth literally playing both sides of the spectrum as the young up and comer Maxine and the old has-been Pearl.

I think X’s major success is due in most part to Mr Ti West.This horror movie pays homage to so many different movies of the genre, but it is never heavy handed. There are references to Psycho (1960) and it can make sense to anyone who knows the concept, but then look deeper and you have a car in a pond and you do have an elderly women killing everyone who steps on her property. Sure, this time it is not a man disguised as his mother, but the connection is still there in pencil. Let’s not forget about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) with the opening scene of driving to a desolate place in the middle of Texas in a giant ass cargo van. And The most obvious one may have been with Lorraine doing her best impression of Jack Torrence from The Shining (1980) before getting her fingers are broken.

Ti West makes X shine with a ready bloody hue. The sequence when RJ is leaving for the first time and Pearl is there blocking his drive way is one of the best in any horror movie in recent memory. The song Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, I audibly said “oh shit.” Don’t fear death? In a horror movie?. Who do you think you are kidding Mr. West? Pearl does her thing and turns RJ into ground meat as the song is thumping through our ear drums. The blood splatter on the car lights literally changes the way the scene is lit with it grounding redder and redder. Also have to look into the overall theme of the movie; Pearl has grown old and sees her prime as behind her, but she wants to be reminded of it. The Reaper comes for people who are often dying of old age. Digging deeper you can say that West is trying to tell Pearl to not fear aging, but she politely is telling anyone listening to fuck off.

Then there is the editing. Credit to Ti West and David David Kashevaroff and their artistic key strokes for getting X to flow as well as it does. The basement sequence when Lorraine finds the body hanging from the ceiling had me pause while folding laundry. Utterly thrown into the terror of that sequence.

Then there is the death of Wayne. Haven’t seen this scene talked about much, but I loved the way it was put from paper to presentation. Wayne is looking for RJ and he steps into the barn. This is right when the killing takes off, so you know something is about to happen. You are on walking on your tip-toes hoping not to set anything off. Wayne is traversing around in his underwear and we see a shot of an exposed nail on the ground. Usually it cuts away, goes back to the nail, maybe cuts away gain, and the the director decides whether or not its false alarm terror or if you go Emily Blunt with it from A Quiet Place (2018). Ti West doesn’t shy away from it. You just see Wayne step on it. There was no brief reprise for the audience. Nope, he hurt himself, and he is going to get hurt more.

I also can’t help but think of Friday The 13th (1980) when there are barn death scenes. And Wayne’s death is creative as well, much like how Jason Voorhees or his mother would do it.

Mia Goth as Pearl looking over her handy work

X is a pretty fucking awesome movie. The movie takes place in a small area but X keeps exploring it and expanding it ever so slightly as the story goes. This movie never goes past the farm once it settles in, but Ti West isn’t stopping there. Before X was even released, A24 approved a prequel called Pearl, which was released later in 2022. Mia Goth returns as the leading women and we get to see the origin story of Pearl. Was she once beautiful? How did she become so demented? We are going to see it all, and I can’t wait. Oh, and you want a sequel too? Maxxxine was greenliit and that is going to follow Maxine after the events on the farm and her continued attempts to get famous in Los Angeles. Surely she has no PTSD or long term lingering effects from almost being mutilated.

I really can’t stress enough how much I recommend X to horror movie fans. It’ll have you all twisted up in the best way. It is streaming on Showtime, and if you don’t have that then I would high encourage you rent it anywhere you can.

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