By Amanda Gilmore
Drugs, sex and gore — X is the Slasher Film we’ve been waiting for.
It’s 1979 in rural Texas and home video porn is about to explode. Executive Producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) wants to be one of the first on the scene to cash in. He teams up with Filmmaker RJ (Owen Campbell) to make a ‘high-calibre’ adult film. Joining them is Maxine (Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), Jackson (Scott Mescudi also known as Kid Cudi) and Audio Recorder Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). They rent a place on a resolute farm from a reclusive elderly couple. However, when the couple catch them in the act, the Cast and crew find themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.
Writer-Director Ti West has made an entertaining film that has something to say. The idea to set the Film around a porn shoot isn’t because ‘sex sells’. It’s essential to the story’s surprisingly sweet theme. By the mid-way mark, a scene takes place to a stripped-down rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, performed by Mescudi. Here, Co-Editors West and David Kashevaroff use split-screen and cuts that visualize the message of enjoying your youthful health and beauty before it ages away.
From their first meeting, the elderly woman attaches herself to starry-eyed dreamer Maxine. Maxine reminds the woman of the young dancer she once was. Of the body she once had. Now in her later-years, her husband and her haven’t been as passionate as they once were due to his heart condition. So when she catches Maxine and Jackson having sex, it reminds the her of what they’ve lost. Sending them on a violent, vengeful rampage.
The First Act focuses on the character development and porn shoot. Wayne, channeling some Matthew McConaughey vibes in Henderson, a self-assured, laidback Texan whose running the show. Campbell give’s RJ a comedic edge as a Filmmaker desperate to make a high-brow dirty film. The three on-screen Porn Stars are given dimension by the Actors who play them. Snow dazzles as the confident, playful Bobby-Lynne. Goth is vibrant as cocaine-snorting aspiring star Maxine. And Mescudi shines as the sole male star of the production. Then there’s Ortega who captivates as the Audio Recorder whose a little bit of an outcast in this group of porn stars. She really is becoming the Scream Queen of her generation.
When it comes to the porn scenes, Co-Editors West and Kashevaroff use cuts that startle the audience. They mix the scenes with disturbing or shocking visuals, making the audience tense when they would otherwise be feeling relaxed.
By the second-half it turns into all-out blood shed. X’s murders aren’t what we have come to expect. We often look at our elders as fragile. West wisely uses this common societal assumption against his young group of Adult Filmmakers. It’s because this couple is older that the group become easily manipulated and fall prey to their murder spree. And those murders don’t disappoint. They are gory, gruesome and at times unexpected.
X feels like its paying homage to quintessential ‘70s Slasher, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The desolate rural location, the van, the gas station stop and the vicious murder rampage that follows. West achieves this nod to the Tobe Hoppers’ classic while making something entirely fresh.
Overall, X is a non-stop thrill ride that’s intelligent, well-acted and gruesome.
VVS Films release X in theatres Friday, March 18, 2022.