In the Texas outback of 1979, innards are splattered, lives are irreversibly changed and cinema is made in Ti West’s new film, “X.” While this movie isn’t for faint-hearted viewers, with outstanding writing, stunning visuals, compelling characters, and superb editing, “X” is a masterpiece.
“X” follows a group of starving artists who venture to a farm in hopes of making the most cinematic pornographic film to date. When they arrive at the farm, conflict quickly arises as the owners of the property – an elderly couple named Howard and Pearl – are extremely religious and have a conservative view of the behavior of the younger generation. Over the course of 24 hours, the two worlds of rigid lore and younger fluidity collide, ultimately resulting in full-scale bloodshed.
Immediately, “X” draws viewers in with outstanding cinematography. Faded colors and visual strategy take audiences back to the late 70ss in rural America in a strange and mystifying way. The camera work, shooting styles and editing are extremely well done. Most compelling is how, as the character RJ (Owen Campbell) starts filming on his camera, the film switches to a smaller aspect ratio. During these sequences, a more yellow color palette is also used to show the viewer what RJ sees through his camera. These techniques truly immerse viewers in the terrifying and spellbinding world of “X”.
What makes “X” more than just a run-of-the-mill slasher film is its brilliant narrative and intricate themes. The character of Maxine (Mia Goth) – the main main character — entered the adult entertainment industry as a way to reach Hollywood and be famous. Maxine feels like the best years of her life may be almost slipping past her as she patiently waits for her chance to become a star. When she arrives at the farm, she and Pearl play brilliant parallels that, if picked up, may chill viewers. These characters reflect themes of old versus young, religion versus secularism, and ultimately how life can turn out differently than initially expected. This wouldn’t be possible without Goth’s hard-hitting acting performance.
“X” beautifully confronts viewers with their deepest conflicts and moral alignment with its perfectly crafted looping narrative. The main divide between the group of adult filmmakers and all the “others”,” like Howard and Pearl, is sex. “X” represents two groups of people: those who embrace sex and sexuality, then those who, mainly through religion, suppressing their desires. “X” dares to present these two polarizers ideas in a captivating visual format that makes viewers wonder about the damage done to the individual by the stifling of human instincts.
Although “X” is set in 1979, the themes covered are those that are still terribly relevant in American society today. “X” eloquently criticizes fragile masculinity, gender, religion and tradition in a sealess manner. West brilliantly incorporated these themes into the heart of this story., allowing the public to sit down and enjoy the show.
None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary performances given by this all-star cast, including Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow and Kid Cudi. No performance is the same. Each character brings with it its own challenges to overcome from the actor’s point of view, as they are all fully trained with clear goals and agency. Struggles with financial stability, for finding acceptance in a conservative community, fighting for their lives, this cast brings its A-game. The talent effortlessly brings this story to life and elevates the dialogue to new heights. Their performances walk the difficult line of being scary and sometimes comedic to create a false sense of security. Besides, these characters are awesome; each is three-dimensional, imperfect, and completely authentic.
The horror elements of “X” are ghastly in the best possible way. Howard and Pearl are sickening to the viewer as West uses the costume design and the way the characters are lit to visually signal to the viewer how worn and obnoxious the pair are. The death modes in “X” are abysmal, sticking with viewers long after they leave the theater.
“X” is a haunting and heartbreaking look at realities that have become even more important in society. America’s obsession with wealth, religion, fame and notoriety is dissected in front of viewers‘ the eyes. “X” is a beautiful disaster that audiences can’t look away from.