Dir. Ti West (2022)
When a group of filmmakers decide to shoot an adult film at a farmhouse in rural Texas, the owners of the home get a tad jealous.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’ve been looking forward to watching this one for a while, and I was not even a little disappointed by what I finally received. I’ve been a huge fan of Ti West since I saw House of the Devil, and my only gripe against that movie was that the batshit crazy finale took too long to happen, and the slow burn film, while worth the wait, did have a long wait for “the good stuff.” This movie absolutely did not, and I loved every second of it. Not to mention, Brittany Snow in a role that was very different from her time in Pitch Perfect.
Doing her best Marilyn Monroe.
The young adult filmmakers and their older-than-he-should-be skeezy producer go to a farmhouse deep in the heart of Texas, trying to prevent the homeowners from learning about what they’re doing while taking seemingly zero steps to actually tone down their behavior. In fact, shortly after their arrival, and during the shooting of their first adult scene, one of our crew of pornographers goes skinny dipping at the local pond. She also wears a shirt that barely covers her nethers, and you’d think that they’d want to keep things a bit more under wraps in 70’s rural Texas, where everyone was either a churchgoer or was a pastor with their own flock. Ironically enough, they managed to find the one house in all of Texas that wasn’t particularly interested with what the Lord wanted from them…
The aforementioned skinny-dipping scene was a fantastic display of tension creation and scene-setting, as West manages to shoot one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever witnessed where a woman is almost eaten by an alligator. The movie is filled with scenes like this: once the bodies start to fall, the tension becomes non-existent for the most part, and there’s not a whole lot of tease without immediate gratification. But that’s what these people are seeking to do by making their film anyway, right? What’s the point of delayed gratification in a world that is giving people increased means of gratification? It’s 1979, so there certainly aren’t pocket phones that carry endless supplies of porn, but they also are seeking to bring that very world about by utilizing the brand-new technology of home video to share their wares with the world at large. Unfortunately, we’re watching this in 2022, and we’ve had porn for a while, so it’s the quick, brutal dispatch of each and every one of our crew that we’re here to see. In this, West doesn’t disappoint in the slightest, giving us some of the best mainstream gore that I’ve seen in a long time while managing to avoid some of the pitfalls of previous goremeisters.
This movie is supremely creepy, and, as I just mentioned, manages to dodge some of the things that prevented the larger success of filmmakers like Eli Roth and managed to derail some of the later installments of the Saw franchise. The film is extremely gory, to be sure, but it doesn’t focus on the gore, instead creating an ambience where we can see what we want to see but simply appreciate the cinematography if we so choose. The particular scene that most struck my fancy was the one involving the van, when blood spattered on the headlights cast the entire scene into a dreamy Argentoland of gore and ambient lighting. It’s a beautiful scene, simple yet effective, and is astoundingly well directed and performed. The film is too new for me to spoil too much here, but suffice to say that the film is filled with scenes like this.
Beautiful film, beautiful women. What’s not to love?
The movie is also incredibly well-acted, with excellent turns by Snow and Jenny Ortega as the main girls and Kid Cudi (who was also fantastic) as an African American Vietnam vet and Owen Campbell as a heartbroken director/boyfriend. It is Mia Goth, however, who absolutely steals the show, playing the duel role of the main starlet and the groups tormentor Pearl. In fact, she will reprise this role in the concurrently-shot prequel Pearl, coming soon from West-land. She is absolutely stellar in this film, and I had no idea until literally right this moment that she plays Pearl as well. I might actually have to go back and watch the film again to truly appreciate that fact. The movie itself does not disappoint, with unbelievable pacing, cinematography, and, again, absolutely buckets of gore. It’s dirty and grimy in the same way that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, but it’s also got that delightful Ti West swagger. I hate that I missed this one in the theater, because it must’ve been a trip to watch with an audience, but rest-assured, you’re not missing much by watching it in your home.
Who this movie is for: Fans of modern horror, Mainstream gorehounds, Fans of vintage erotica
Bottom line: X is fucking fantastic, and is a must see for all fans of modern horror. Ti West is quickly gaining himself a legion of fans, and it’s all completely deserved because he knocks this one out of the park. It checks all of the boxes, from gore to a competently told story, and it’s a thrill ride once everything kicks off. The acting is stellar, the cinematography has something for everyone, and it’s even got some amazing creature effects. Fantastic film, an absolute modern classic.