X (2022) Movie Review

A24’s latest foray into prestige filmmaking combines two of the 70’s most notable film genres; adult filmmaking and horror, in X (2022).

Writer/Director Ti West’s titillating and gruesome look into the two seemingly disparate styles of cinema meld together better than you might think, leading to an ending you might not expect from X.

The Plot — X

Wayne and Maxine are out to make a movie.

And, given it’s the waning days of the 1970’s, you can imagine the kind of film based on the randy baseline music made famous by the genre.

Wayne, played by Martin Henderson, manages a Gentleman’s Club in Houston, TX; and does his best Matthew McConaughey impression. Maxine, played by Mia Goth, dreams big; having already become a headliner *ahem* ‘Dancer’ at Wayne’s club. Now, she hopes to take the next logical step to a career on the silver screen. The *ADULT* silver screen, that is.

With Wayne as Producer and Maxine as star; established Adult Film stars Bobby-Lynne, played by Brittany Snow, and Jackson, played by Kid Cudi, join their cast. And, looking to break into the film business in any way possible is RJ, played by Owen Campbell; and his girlfriend/gaffer Lorraine, played by Jenna Ortega; round out the ‘Farmer’s Daughters’ cast and crew.

The Farm

Our six intrepid filmmakers pile into a windowless van, and hit the road for a picturesque farm out in the country. Upon arrival, they’re greeted by their geriatric host and farmer, Howard, played by Stephen Ure. Howard’s equally old wife, Pearl, watches the new arrivals from afar — not doing or saying anything, just watching.

Howard warns Wayne and the others to stay away from his wife at the main house. Despite offering to up the rent, Wayne feels Howard’s disapproval, even though Wayne never bothered to tell him they are shooting an adult film at Howard’s farm.

The Adult Filmmaking

First up on the schedule, Maxine and Jackson film their first scene with RJ directing and shooting the film. RJ possesses high ambition to succeed in the film industry, and wants to make this not just porn, but ‘Cinema’.

RJ wants this film to have character development, cutting edge Cinematography and Editing, and be a calling card of his auteur style of Directing. That being said, Jackson quickly tires of having the camera focus on his face during the filming of a scene.

Up next, Bobby-Lynne and Jackson film another scene, while Maxine takes a break and wanders around the farm. Nearby, she finds a pond and goes skinning dipping, unaware of the alligator, ALSO, in the water.

Watching the alligator track down Maxine, the ghostly Pearl remains silent and still. Even as danger nears, Pearl says nothing, voyeuristically watching the scene play out. She waits to see if Maxine gets out unscathed.

The Good — X

The Adult Film Within The Film

RJ’s filming style for ‘Farmer’s Daughters’ bleeds into the filming style for X itself. RJ suggests intercutting shots when transitioning scenes, and X’s Director Ti West intercuts the same shots when transitioning scenes.

While Farmer’s Daughters has an X rating, X itself is Rated R. Meaning, there are limits to what Director Ti West can show — even in a Horror film.

Even with those limits, West pushes limits to tell his story — questioning society’s attitudes towards adult content, and women’s inner thoughts and feelings about that adult content. Both of these issues rise in the larger film with Pearl, as well. Clearly from a much older and conservative generation, Pearl herself questions herself and her husband when it comes to such marital matters.

The Kills

As someone who lacks a finer appreciation for the Horror genre, I loved the kills in X. There isn’t a Freddy Kruger or Pinhead. There aren’t overly elaborate killing machines like in ‘Saw’ or even something seen from a Bond villain.

Ti West doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel of Horror kills, he simply uses those that make sense for the story. As RJ films as the auteur of Farmer’s Daughters, so Ti West films as the auteur of X.

A knife, a shotgun, and mother nature herself, an alligator; dispatch our neophyte pornographers. The beauty of the kills is in the simplicity and the buildup/tension to the event. Ti West uses the darkness and fear of the moment, rather than the kill itself to tell the story.

The importance of the Suspence outweighs the importance of the Kills, but the kills are felt because of the suspense. Each kill builds on the last, going one at a time through the climax of the film.

The Review — X

Director Ti West’s love letter to 70’s filmmaking perfectly blends the adult film and horror genres. One minute we see them filming an adult film, and the next they’re running for their lives.

Where West makes an interesting choice, however, is showing off the crime scene at the very start of the film. The following morning, Sheriff Dentler, played by James Gaylyn, gets a walk through tour of the whole scene. We see where everyone died, and hear how it happened.

The when, where, and how are answered right off the top of the film, and the who answers itself in the next scene. The only real question for the entire rest of the film to answer is the ‘Why’. Instead of spoiling the purpose of the film; this frees the audience to focus on the why and the story itself.

Mia Goth’s lead role as Maxine gives us our Point Of View character for the audience, and motivation for the story. Goth’s performance shows a driven and fearless person, willing to do whatever it takes to raise herself up and have a better life than what she had known. Whatever it takes, including adult films and fighting for her life.

Brittany Snow’s performance as Bobby-Lynne brings out the fun of the setting and gives us a partial window into Maxine’s future in the business. Jenna Ortega’s performance as Lorraine shows us where Maxine was before, as Lorraine takes her first steps into independence and adulthood.

At only 105 minutes, we seemingly get two movies in one, but with a seamless experience and story; perfectly melding two styles and two realities into one.

Fun, suspenseful, titillating, and just enough blood to keep the ‘Horror’ label over ‘Suspense’, X (2022) is a surprisingly satisfying journey back in time, and a worthwhile character study that doesn’t get preachy or boring.

Absolutely worth watching, especially if you love horror films; and worthy of the A24 brand.

Four stars out of five.

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Dragon Movie Guy

Dragon Movie Guy

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