Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Starring: Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Kid Cudi, Stephen Ure
Director: Ti West
Genre movies get a bad rap. We go into them knowing exactly what they’ll be, but then criticise them for being formulaic. X is the latest slasher-horror that not only adheres to its genre conventions, it revels in them. And it’s all the better for it.
It is 1979 and Wayne (Henderson - The Ring) is a movie director who has seen the potential for low-budget pornography in the newly created VHS market. Together with his girlfriend, Maxine (Goth - Suspiria, Nymphomaniac), stars (Snow - Hairspray & Cudi - The Need For Speed) and crew, they head to a secluded cabin in the wilderness to shoot their movie, but upon arrival meet its elderly redneck owners Howard and Pearl, (Ure - The Lord Of The Rings & Goth in a second role), who really aren’t keen on their visitors. Taking offence at their immodesty and licentiousness, the couple embark on a gruesome killing spree, with the group oblivious as to why it’s happening. Because surely the elderly couldn’t possibly by killers, right?
X manages to harness both the period and the sun-drenched 70s style adeptly. The footage the characters shoot is granular and wooden, while the rest perfectly evokes Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday The 13th, feeling like an authentic B-movie horror. There is gore aplenty, with the screen bathed in blood and guts by the finale, so if you like that sort of thing, X absolutely delivers.
Mia Goth is a perfect scream-queen, but starring as the villain too adds an unsettlingly narcissistic edge, especially as old Mia sexually assaults young Mia in her sleep. Pearl has a voracious sexual appetite, whether for the boys on their ranch or the girls. The film uses elderly sexuality to underpin its antagonists’ motives, dining out its shock factor and using it as their motive. In fact, it capitalises extensively on the period’s association of sex and violence, even if its female villain and woke victims anchor the film firmly in the twenty-first century.
There is certainly nothing monumental about its plot, strictly following the rules - and narrative tropes - of its genre. But if you go into this with your eyes open, it delivers a well-crafted slasher horror on all counts, even if its finale and body-count are hardly a surprise.
UK Release: Out now on DVD and VOD, released by A24