Review of Ti West’s X
The greatest threesome known to humanity is this… horror, comedy, and horniness. The 80’s slasher is where this throuple really came together for mainstream audiences as groups of stupid teenagers did stupid things which ended up with them mostly meeting their demise. Ti West’s new film X follows in that tradition as a stunningly edited horny homage to the slashers we all love. So toss on your sunglasses and a crop top because we’re headed to Texas for a review of X.
The film follows a group of people who are looking to find a better life for themselves by becoming stars! Porn stars that is because they’re headed to a rural area of Texas to film a pornographic film together. Sounds hot, right? Well, remember, this is a horror movie and things get weird with a slow burn fuse to a box of some of the wildest horror dynamite I’ve seen on screen.
Ti West brings a unique flair to every one of his films but X seems to have some extra spice. The opening shot of the film that puts the audience in a box before slowly creeping to the full extent of the screen was something that immediately draws you fully into the movie. From there, the camera work and cinematography, by Eliot Rockett, are just beautiful. It shares a visual language with films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with its grain and grit. It doesn’t shy away from violence once the proverbial horror dam breaks. Some of the kills in X that are on par with ones executed by Freddy and Jason with incredible camerawork to make them really stick in your mind. Throughout the film, there are transitions that remind me of watching a coin flip in the air to see where it lands as I watch one side and then another. The editing by Ti West and David Kashevaroff have filled my mind since the credits rolled because I’ve never seen anything like it.
With the film being so much about sex, the scenes that revolve around it are humorous and sexual but never in a cheap way that the films it homages may have been. The film doesn’t take the typical “elevated” horror route we see so often in many modern horror films but it has a lot to say using the tools of the slasher style horror. I dare not tread into spoilers for the film but the themes of sex are prevalent in a way that examines sexuality in a few different ways. Sex has been a huge selling point in horror for much of the 70s and 80s where this film is set so its interesting to see it played as an element in the story itself and themes.
Mia Goth plays Maxine, the main character of X who is one of two dancer’s from her boyfriend Wayne’s (Martin Henderson) strip club. She doesn’t want to be in the life she’s in any longer and will do anything to get out. Her performance is wonderful through the film as a sexual character who knows her worth until the very end. The other dance, Bobby-Lynne, is played by Brittany Snow who is continuously very funny through the film with her quick jabs at her fellow filmmakers. Out of everyone in the cast, she puts on the most southern charm which rings so true in her humor and commentary in the film. Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) plays the star of the film who has some stand out moments that makes me hope he continues as an actor. I do not want to give away much about the slashers themselves but god damn will they haunt your nightmares and have your hairs stand on ends for the days to come.
The standout performance of X for me was that of Jenna Ortega who is hot off the tails of starring in Scream (2022). Coming from a film built as a meta commentary on the slasher genre to a film that’s essentially a love letter to it is such an interesting way to look at her two performances. She brings a much different ranger and energy to the characters of Lorraine than she did in Scream(2022). They refer to her as church mouse because she is very timid of the whole situation but her journey through the film takes a very different route than characters like hers have in other slashers. It’s a very fun twist on a familiar troupe that makes her role stand out.
Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe’s score for X marries two distinct things to make something wonderful fitting for the film, 70’s/80’s porn funk and horror scores. There are scenes that transition from actual porn being shot to some eerie moments with the score following suit. The composition slides between that familiar bass funk that has underlined porn for a very long time with those distinct sounds of horror. It’s an incredible sound that I cannot wait to listen to on loop because its just that good.
A lot of modern “elevated” horror is afraid of sexuality which leads to some semi-stale air but X never slows down for even a minute as it embraces it entirely. Ti West brings the thunder with this film that brings the slasher to 2022 with ease, style, and a whole lot of blood.