In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.
My X Elevator Pitch
Take Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cabin in the Woods, and Boogie Nights, throw them in a woodchipper, and you’ve got Ti West’s X.
Fresh or Rotten?
The film has a 94% fresh rating on the Tomato Meter, and I agree more with the critics’ consensus vs. the audience consensus, which rated it at 75% fresh.
This gem had everything I love about horror: an accurate throwback to a bygone era of slasher films, a fresh take on sex work and the porn industry that ranges from scintillating to comedic to artsy, characters you honestly don’t want to see murdered, a creepy and strangely sympathetic killer, and an underbelly of social commentary that will have you thinking—if that’s what you want out of the experience. If you’d rather enjoy the sex and gore, you won’t need to think too hard, so don’t worry!
Arthouse Meets Grindhouse
The movie is gory, lewd, and downright stunning, with scenes that stole my breath—”later gator!” (When you know, you know). At one point, after X has spent time poking fun at The Farmer’s Daughter—our film within the film—being an “art film,” not a “porno,” the movie does turn porn into art during a sequence in which Maxine, our main protagonist shows us that she’s not just another pretty face, she elevates the “film” because of her “X Factor.” And don’t worry, the porn is softcore Cinemax—or what we used to call “skin-a-max” in the ’80s—nothing that is too graphic, and it often verges on over-the-top camp.
The movie score, composed to perfection by Tyler Bates, was creepy enough sometimes to remind me of Claudio Simonetti’s Suspiria score. Finally, you must love the homage to Halloween when we hear “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (I need more cowbell!) as we’re brutally plunged into the darkness of the third act.
Horror with Depth
X also explores deeper fears like aging but still being a sexual being. The loss of desire with your ride or die. Racism, bigotry, extreme deep south fundamentalism, and slut-shaming. It also offers thoughtful conversations about body autonomy, fidelity, and, in one of the more significant character development twists, a delicious feminist subversion of the male gaze, done with quiet nuance by Jenna Ortega and in creepy broad strokes with our murdering white nightgown-clad Pearl.
Speaking of Pearl, in a brilliantly depicted dual role, Mia Goth shines as a final girl you’ll be excited to see in the sequel (coming soon to a theater near us!) and the fascinating killer you’ll be dying to see in the prequel, Pearl. I can’t wait to hit that one next!
What did you think of X? Have you seen Pearl? I have to say, I’m glad I waited to watch this until Pearl was also available. I enjoyed X so much that I feel like staying for a while longer in Ti West’s X horror universe. Hang out with me on social media, and let’s keep the conversation going!