Ti West’s X is a Hugely Entertaining Take on the Slasher Genre
SXSW: X Review
With the new X, horror auteur Ti West has returned from a six-year hiatus to make a stylish and entertaining take on the slasher film, one set in the world of low-budget pornography set in 1979 Texas. It’s a first-rate slasher film, one built around a very original idea, and featuring a healthy amount of laughs.
X, a 2022 South by Southwest debut that comes out in theaters Friday, is a perfect fit for the Midnighters section at the festival, or a late-night showing at a theater near you (sadly, the title is not an easy one to Google.) And while it represents West’s first film as director since 2016’s In a Valley of Violence, the director secretly shot a prequel at the same time, so the wait for his next film won’t be nearly as long.
The film follows a small company of pornographers- not in the glamorous San Fernando Valley porn world of Boogie Nights, but rather the small-time, indie world of Texas, renting out a rural farmhouse location to shoot a “The Farmer’s Daughter,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
Martin Henderson plays against type as Wayne, the impresario of the group, directing star stripper Maxine (Mia Goth.) Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi) and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) play the big stars, and along for the ride are a snooty film student type (Owen Campbell) and his young girlfriend (Jenna Ortega.)
They’re renting the farm property from an elderly couple, who appear creepy at first and turn out to have very specific motivations of their own that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. Howard, the old man, is played by Stephen Ure, in a turn shot so successfully in shadow that for most of the movie I thought he was Bruce Dern.
It’s all very delightful, with the cast delivering fine performances that are largely against type. Mescudi looks like he stepped out of the set of Shaft, while Snow — best known from the Pitch Perfect films — perfectly embodies the Southern porn star. Owen Campbell puts a fine spin on a familiar type, a pretentious film brat type who’s slumming it by directing an adult picture.
But the film belongs to Mia Goth, the actress from Suspiria, who plays a great character. X has very little in common with Boogie Nights, aside from the time period and the porn subject, but Goth gets to deliver a version of Dirk Diggler’s “I am a star” monologue, and we soon discover there’s more to her than meets the eye. One scene where she swims and faces near-peril is one of the better-shot sequences of the year.
The film, in keeping with recent traditions, keeps the nudity fairly balanced between the sexes; one brief moment of male full-frontal led the gentleman seated in front of me to blurt out “god-damn!” Goth for much of the film sports overalls, complete with sideboob, that I expect to become a popular Halloween costume next fall.
X comes from A24 which, with Zola and Red Rocket last year and X now, has corned the market on classy and stylish films about sex workers and porn performers. I’m still laughing at the name written on their van.
- Stephen Silver
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