Movie #80 2022: X (2022)

Alright, Ti West. Fair play. If you’re looking for a horror movie that steps away from the usual horror tropes this season, this may very well be the one for you. Don’t get it twisted: this movie is twisted. It’s X-rated (hence the title), there are themes of pornography accompanied by a ton of sex scenes, there’s blood, gore, murder, and everything in between… Sounds perfect for a horror film completist, no?

X is the first in what is a now a trilogy from this director. Its sequel, Pearl, was released earlier in the year (although I haven’t seen it yet), and there’s a third movie titled MaXXXine on the way, which can only suggest that A24 and audiences alike were pretty impressed from the off. Set in rural 1970s Texas, the film follows a group of young filmmakers who have set out to make an adult film out in the sticks. However, when their elderly hosts become privy to what they’re doing, their low budget movie quickly descends into a fight for their lives.

To put it briefly, this is of those rare movies in which I can’t tell if I loved it or strongly disliked it… Either way, I’m still interested to see Pearl and the third instalment in this franchise. 

On the one hand, is really quite predictable in its plot. Is it easy to see the fact that an old lady is going gouge a man’s eye out with a pitchfork? Of course not. But the broader picture is that before it gets started, there’s no question that this is going to be a weird sort of hillbilly/slasher/cabin in the woods hybrid. It’s understandable that the majority of audiences will have come to this movie exactly for that reason, it’s just that I expected more from it due to the hype it received. (Another cautionary tale about getting involved in hype before seeing a film, I guess.)

On the other hand, stylistically, X is exactly what I wanted it to be and more. A tribute to low budget 70s grindhouse flicks, the film emulates and encapsulates such a specific aesthetic that is really pleasing on the eye. Ti West really does a brilliant job with a mere $1 million budget, using really well placed transitions and split screens with an admirably deft hand. Visually then, X absolutely hits the nail on the head (and through the foot) in that it is technically an excellent piece of filmmaking. 

As for performance, there’s not much to report that you wouldn’t already know. Mia Goth is the driving force, giving a career-enhancing performance in both of her roles here. However the supporting cast (minus Jenna Ortega, who has star power running through her veins) are fine, yet nothing to write home about. Despite that, it was fun to see Brittany Snow do something entirely out of her comfort zone for once.

So yeah, I’m a little bit torn by this one. Whilst I did want to like it more in terms of story, I can’t deny that it is a very well made film with an undeniably strong leading performance. Let’s see what the prequel brings, I suppose!

X is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½

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