Latest indie horror from A24 takes place in 1979 and finds sleazy Texas producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) setting out to make a porn film with stars Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), Maxine (Mia Goth), and Jackson (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) along with their two-person film crew RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). They travel to the remote farm of strange, elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (also Mia Goth), who turn out not to be the harmless old folks they seem, and the porn film soon turns into a horror movie…for real.
X is written and directed by Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and is basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Debbie Does Dallas. It is a good, old-fashioned, grindhouse style flick with lots of sex, gore and flesh crawling moments. X starts out like most of West’s flicks with a slow burn, but one where we start to feel from the very start that something is not right. This prevailing sense of dread builds as things get weirder and weirder and West makes us constantly feel that a threat is soon to emerge, no better symbolized then by the gators lurking about the couple’s property. When the blood finally starts to flow, it’s prosthetic gore and there are some nasty kills to characters we’ve gotten to know and like. Even sleazy Wayne has a good-ole-boy charm that’s hard not to endear to. This makes it all the more impactful when the film crew starts to fall to various sharp objects, shotguns and the before mentioned gators. It’s scary, nasty and in between the violent moments, there are some that will certainly make your skin crawl. The sexual, undercurrent the film has also gets very disturbing…and that’s by design. This is simply West’s best horror since The House of The Devil, and one of the best horrors so far this year. It’s sexy. sleazy, scary and gory…what more do you want from a horror flick!?
Director West has a good cast in support. Henderson gives Wayne a charming appeal that despite his sleazy nature and willingness to exploit his girlfriend, Maxine, makes him a likable rogue. As Maxine, Mia Goth deftly balances a young woman with both a strong sexuality and a gentle sweetness that really makes her character work. Snow is delightfully sassy as Southern belle and porn star Bobby-Lynne, who is no dumb blonde. She’s using her natural talents to make a better life for herself. Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is also solid as ex-Marine and war veteran turned porn star Jackson. He’s fun and has a nice heroic side. Jenna Ortega is once again impressive as “church mouse” Lorraine who seems sweet and virginal but may not be as innocent as she appears. Owen is likable as filmmaker wannabe RJ, and Stephen Ure and Mia Goth are very creepy—especially Mia Goth—as the elderly Howard and Pearl. A good cast.
Overall, this is one of West’s best films and a refreshingly, old-fashioned horror that leaves all the overdone meta/retconning crap behind. It’s scary, gory and has some moments and kills that will legitimately make your flesh crawl. It has a sexual undercurrent that goes from sexy to disturbing and pays homage to the classic grindhouse era horrors of the 70s, while yet being its own thing. Definitely one of the best horror flicks to come out so far in 2022 and one of West’s most effective horror flicks yet. Stay through the credits!
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) knives!