by Ray Schillaci
The Movie Guys

Writer/director Ti West was once asked why he chose a western as his latest film when he was primarily known for horror. West seemed agitated and quipped (I’m paraphrasing), “What, you think that’s all I can do?” No, he is very capable of doing all genres, but the man knows how to bring forbidding horror to the screen as few others can.

Take for instance his latest foray into horror with A24, X. Out of all of West’s films, his latest is his most creative, shocking and unexpected. You may even see things you wish you could unsee. Ti West takes us back to the good ol’ ’70s era of terror that launched the original The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Rob Zombie came close to this with House of 1000 Corpses. But, West is not just out to shock. He plays with our minds and gives us some rich characters that we get involved with.

It’s 1979 and Wayne (Martin Henderson) and his film crew and cast see the financial future in shooting an X-rated film for dirt cheap at a rural farmhouse in Texas. It makes sense since this is the time when porn was becoming popular in the VHS home market. Wayne has not told the old couple who own the farm their intention. His story to them is he just needs a place to stay for a day or two purposely neglecting to tell them about the others.

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When they arrive, the old man is none too happy. But, Wayne slips him some extra money to keep him happy. Even though they are in an extra cabin, away from the farmhouse, the old man warns them to keep it down because his wife is none too well. Already you can see where this is going. But, West’s story and the way he shoots it is far from the average slasher film. There are plenty of surprises in store.

For instance, there is the aspiring young actress, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), who truly believes that she can make herself a star by starting in the porn business. She is urged on by her boyfriend and producer, Wayne. The crew/cast includes bleach blonde porn actress Bobby Lynn (Brittany Snow), who appears to have had plenty of experience along with her co-star Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi / Kid Cudi), a black porn actor. RJ (Owen Campbell) is the wannabe filmmaker who insists he is going to shoot the film unlike any other porn. His picture is going to be artistic. At first, his assistant and quiet girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), disapproves of him wasting his talent. But, soon she becomes intrigued with the shoot and wants to be part of it. Already we become immersed with all of them, their quirks, dreams and openness. This is when we almost forget about the creepy old farm couple.

That old couple is not the typical threat you would think. The old man just wants to keep his wife safe. He’s also suffering from a bad heart and abstains from sex with his wife for fear of dying on her. Now, when I say old, they are not your warm grandma and grandpa types. They appear to have more than one foot in the grave, liver-spotted and all. The old woman just wants to be loved and begs her husband to make love to her. She longs for the touch of human skin, but not in a cannibalistic manner. Okay, so now you know X is not going to be your typical horror romp, or is it?

Ti West goes in and out of the horror tropes in X while infusing new life into them. Horror fans will get the build-up, know what’s coming, but the writer/director will still manage to surprise and shock them. The film almost feels like an A24 film with some of the quieter moments, but then it throws a curveball that feels like a cross between Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse.

Mia Goth as Maxine Minx has a certain naïveté going for her, but at the same time gives off a trailer trash vibe. She could easily be the new screen queen of the decade. Brittany Snow, known for the Pitch Perfect movies, gives us the trashiest side of herself along with her co-star Kid Cudi and both are pretty damn funny. Those who are supposed to be behind the camera, Owen Campbell as RJ and Jenna Ortega as Lorraine aka “Church Mouse” are well suited as the corruptible innocence.

X is a rollercoaster of a shocker that is outrageous, funny, dark and not for the faint of heart or prudes. You will also need a strong stomach and that’s not just referring to the gore. Writer/director Ti West has taken the R-rating to its limits, but it’s not for cheap thrills. He has something more in mind and in the end we can’t help thinking about everything he has to offer.

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Directed by: Ti West
Release Date: March 18, 2022
Run Time: 105 Minutes
Rated: R
Country: United States
Distributor: A24

X movie poster with brittany snow and mia goth

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