“X” is an VII out of X

Ti West’s newest slasher kills

“X” is a slasher film from director Ti West, and it stars Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow and Scott Mescudi. The film takes place in Texas in the late ‘70s, and it follows the cast and crew of an adult film as they stay on an old couple’s rural property in order to shoot. However, the couple eventually discovers the content of the film and takes violent action.

I was excited when it was announced that Ti West was making another film, especially considering this is his first film since 2016’s “In a Valley of Violence.” I find it interesting that most of his films are very loving homages to other genres and older time periods. For example, “The House of the Devil” is very inspired by ‘70s and ‘80s horror, whereas “In a Valley of Violence” pays respect to Westerns.

And with “X,” West delivered a brutal, well-directed and surprisingly hilarious love letter to slashers.

One aspect of the film that I enjoyed was the cast, although I will admit that Jenna Ortega didn’t have as much to do as I expected. I think part of that is because of how much I loved her in “Scream” and “The Fallout,” but this isn’t really that significant of a criticism. The rest of the cast is entertaining to watch, and I particularly enjoyed the chemistry between Brittany Snow and Scott Mescudi. But out of all the performances, my favorites would have to be from Mia Goth, as she impressively plays two distinct characters.

Goth plays a young woman named Maxine, who is acting in the pornographic film being made. However, she also plays Pearl, who is the elderly woman who owns the property with her husband. Both characters have an interesting dynamic throughout the film, in which Pearl expresses jealousy towards Maxine due to her youth and sex appeal. But the thing that really works for me is how well Goth was able to play an old Texan woman in spite of being a British actress in her late twenties. Her movement is slow without feeling exaggerated, and the voice she used to distinguish Maxine from Pearl worked very well.

A lot of Goth’s performance complements the fantastic old-age makeup. There are films where actors are in old-age makeup but they don’t give a convincing performance and it just feels like a young person wearing an old person’s face. A recent example of this is Jada Pinkett Smith in “The Matrix Resurrections.” Not only was the makeup relatively unconvincing, but her performance was unable to persuade me that the character was in her eighties. It just seemed like Pinkett Smith trying to look and sound like an old woman, but there wasn’t enough done with her body language. On the other end of the spectrum, we have David Thewlis and Toni Collette in Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Both actors gave phenomenal performances as their characters, who drastically change age throughout the film. The makeup is incredibly convincing (the crew even gave Toni Collette different teeth prosthetics), and both actors added a lot of tics like subtle shaking and occasional blank stares. Compared to Pinkett Smith, Thewlis and Collete, I would say that Goth’s performance in “X” is somewhere in the middle ground, but she still does a great job with the material.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the film’s violence. This is a slasher, and I want some inventive kills in my slashers. Thankfully, West understood this and fully delivered. Most of the violence was graphic and at the very least seemed to be done using practical effects. Plus, they’re over-the-top in a way that brings to mind the murders in “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” However, there’s also a cheeky sense of humor that often accompanies these kills. For example, there is a moment early in the film where a character says, “People’s eyes are gonna pop out of their damn skulls when they see this.” We later see something like this happen when a character is stabbed in the face with a pitchfork, with their eyes falling out afterward. It’s a great moment of both foreshadowing and dark comedy.

Speaking of which, this movie is surprisingly funny. Some of the humor is for the sake of endearing the audience to the film’s characters. However, there are also some moments of dark comedy, part of which revolves around the fact that the film’s antagonists are an elderly couple. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t discuss the specific context behind these moments, but they feel natural and managed to get a genuine laugh out of me.

I also enjoyed the film’s original score from Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe. Bates is a composer who is, in my opinion, decent; I’ve appreciated his scores, but I didn’t find them memorable. However, I was excited to hear Wolfe’s contributions to the film, as I enjoy her music quite a bit. Her work on the albums “Pain Is Beauty” and “Abyss” is a cool combination of gothic rock, doom metal and folk music, which sounds perfect for a movie like this. And, sure enough, I found the score to be haunting and eerily beautiful at points.

As goofy as the film is, there are also a few moments that can come across as pretentious. Again, I can’t go into much detail, but these scenes feel like they don’t belong in such a trashy movie. There’s also a quick but significant revelation at the end of the film that felt like an afterthought. It’s unnecessary and jarring, and I was confused as to why it was in the film in the first place.

In the end, “X” was a fun, brutal homage to slashers, and I can’t wait to see it again. Not only that, but West also revealed an already-shot prequel film named “Pearl” at the end of the credits. We’ll have to wait for that film, but until then, check out “X.” Your eyes are gonna pop out of your damn skulls once you see it.

RATING: 7/10