A24, the production company behind horror releases Hereditary, The Witch, and Midsommar, dip their toes into the slasher world with their latest release X. Director, Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) helms the project that sees a group of adult filmmakers embark on the rural Texan countryside to make an adult film. What begins as a dream opportunity for fame and fortune quickly descends into a nightmare when a reclusive, elderly couple – who own the farm they’re secretly filming at – gets wind of what they’re doing.
Jenna Ortega, fresh off her role in Scream 2022, adds another horror film to her CV here and stars alongside Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, and Kid Cudi.
Dying to show you a good time
A24 has become synonymous with the term “elevated horror,” (I’ll leave you to make your own mind up about that conversation) and X takes this concept into the slasher world. The marketing for the film promises that we will have a “good time,” but those expecting a cheap thrill, sleazy exploration of the porn industry will be left surprised, as X is much more than just a ploy to titillate and excite.
Sure, it does have those things, but its use of explicit sexual content does serve a purpose and adds to the underlying themes of the film. X creatively explores the ravages of age, the yearning for a life not fulfilled, and the desire to regain lost beauty. These topics are navigated intelligently, resulting in a disturbing, unsettling, and somewhat heartbreaking piece.
Set in the late 1970s, X has a rich visual palette that will draw comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Even more so, the first half of the film closely resembles Tobe Hooper’s iconic entry, as we follow the band of aspiring filmmakers on their journey towards a secluded farmhouse. While the first half of the film lacks any real sense of horror, the early time spent with these characters allows us to engage with the group and get a better understanding of their motivations. This closer look at the characters makes for more impact in the later stages.
We’re gonna be rich…!
While Jenna Ortega is the talk of the town right now, it’s Mia Goth that carries a lot of the heavy lifting. Goth pulls double duty here, playing the role of Maxine – the lead of the adult film – as well as donning heavy prosthetics when playing the film’s antagonist, Pearl. The dynamic between these two characters sets the scene for the events that unfold and Goth deftly manages to bring each version to life.
The rest of the cast more than deliver in their individual roles too. Ortega’s “church mouse” Lorraine adds innocence and a sense of exploration, whilst Brittany Snow’s Bobby-Lynne adds thought-provoking commentary on the freedoms of sexual liberation. Martin Henderson and Kid Cudi inject X with genuine humor and also bring their characters’ points of view to the table. This combination of different characteristics allows the group dynamic to shine and the performers do a great job in keeping you invested throughout.
One of X’s biggest selling points was seeing Ti West return to the director’s chair for a horror film release and X marks the director’s first feature in six years. West proves he hasn’t lost his touch during that time as he infuses X with a rich visual style, plenty of nail-biting tension, and a collection of gruesome kills. While his slow-burn approach towards the bloodshed might not appeal to everyone, the ride is worth the wait as X’s final act delivers a collection of brutal and bloody scenes which aren’t for the faint-hearted.
X is a fun, throwback to a bygone era of filmmaking. Paying homage to the classics, it takes what should be quite a generic plot and dives into something much deeper. Filled with all the laughter, sex, and violence we come to expect from this genre, X provides A24 with another winning entry that subverts expectations and leaves us pondering over its underlying messages. Whether you’re accommodating to the explicit nature of the film or not lies in your own personal taste, X certainly uses these factors to create a memorable watch.
Maybe avoid viewing this one with the parents though!
Those hoping for more from this world won’t have to wait long, as the film’s end credits showcase a trailer for X’s prequel film, Pearl, which has already been filmed and is set to release soon.
Have you seen X yet? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments section.