X (2022)

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a kid with reviews in his pod

X
(2022)

In 1979, a group of young pornographic filmmakers venture out to rural Texas to film in a location which compliments the ambitious script. However, after things begin to unravel and their unannounced pornographic exploits are discovered by the elderly owners of the farm which they are staying on, things begin to unravel and the filmmakers find themselves in unmistakable danger.

The 70's setting which is established for X is outstanding. The banter, the clothing, the hair and the make-up along with some of the transitional shots and filmmaking aspects explored here compliment the 70's vibe exceptionally well. Additionally, the exploration of the pornographic filmmaking process and the impacts of it (as well as the seductive nature of the business that come with it) are explored effectively and engagingly.

It is important to note that while X at face value is a horror film, Director & Writer Ti West has added a more intriguing and enticing heart in which explores the porn industry, the implications of the industry on its stars and its crew, as well as the unique manner in which relationships and livelihoods differ from those of normalcy, particularly around the era in which the film is set. More again, the most intriguing and perhaps disturbing aspect of X comes with its exploration of our antagonists in the elderly couple who own the farm and the tragic and awfully frightening reality that comes with growing old.

X explores it's messages and in such a profoundly powerful way that it simply must be seen to be appreciated. It's been quite sometime since I felt anything of sympathy or sadness for an antagonist in a film such as this, particularly with the disturbing nature of their actions - however - it only adds merit to the fantastic script that ensures this slow-burn film never feels boring or pretentious.

X is a unique and interestingly crafted piece of cinema which delves deep into the themes it explores and the characters which it introduces. Where many horror films fail to establish their main cast, X effectively creates likeable and engaging characters that appear to have layers and resemble aspects of real life. Mia Goth is exceptional and gets to truly show off her acting range in X as she plays not only Maxine, but to my complete shock, also the elderly woman who terrorize our cast, Pearl. She's both haunting and captivating in both roles. Special mention to Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne who adds a great deal of (at times) much needed humor and comedic beats to break up the seriousness and the dark tone of the film. Owen Campbell (RJ), Martin Henderson (Wayne), Kid Cudi (Jackson), Jenna Ortega (Lorraine) and Stephen Ure (Howard) are also exceptionally well cast and lend some powerful, funny and engaging performance too.

The gore in X is gruesome. It feels like every injury sustained or death that comes upon our cast is executed with profound realism which at times feels disturbing to watch on as it happens. The practical and special effects on display here are marvelous to watch.

There are very few negatives I can give to X. I enjoyed my viewing experience and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the script and the story, particularly given the content dealt with. X is certainly not for the faint of heart, however. It has graphic sexual content, brutal death sequences and some truly disturbing sequences that the squeamish or easily disturbed will likely struggle to get through. However, if you feel inclined to see this one and soldier through these harder-to-stomach moments, I'm almost certain you'll enjoy and engage with the story; particularly if you fancy the A24 style films.

RATING:



a kid with reviews in his pod
Fully agreed. It was spectacular.
So glad to hear that you enjoyed it as much as I did! Were you surprised by how much you enjoyed it too?



So glad to hear that you enjoyed it as much as I did! Were you surprised by how much you enjoyed it too?
I donít really do reviews, hardly ever, partly because for some reason Iím irritated by the idea of offering any kind of summary of events. That isnít because I canít summarise things - I write for a living - but because I feel that massively limits the scope for othersí interpretation and any potential discussion that might follow. A particularly telling example was one unfortunate university project I was involved in where we were analysing McCarthyís The Road (the novel) as a group. I was the only one who interpreted the protagonistís wife as having gone blind. The entire group was perplexed by my interpretation, including the lecturer (it stemmed from said wife asking why it was so dark)Ö and then I read a preface to the book by a critic that also thought she was blind. Which is to say, I think even such seemingly clear-cut aspects of the plot can be read differently by different people, and I donít like to limit that.

In many ways, though I try to watch as much as possible, I have a pretty niche taste. I tend to love very particular films, especially a specific kind of horror/speculative/sci-fi stuff thatís pretty hard for me to classify, except that it usually had a bit of a misanthropic worldview. A24 is looking like my cup of tea for life right now. I donít think thereís anything theyíve made that I donít like. When it comes to A24 horror, itís nearly always a perfect match to what I love about and in horror films; itís as if A24 films are custom-made just for me. I often look forward to something from having read pre-production news and such, and, though often when one anticipates something like that it means setting yourself up for disappointment, thatís never been the case for me with A24. I didnít like Midsommar as much as Hereditary, which I remember being in a cinema in Newcastle and having just started watching when I knew, ****, Iím going to love this. And I did. All of which is a ridiculously meandering preface to answering your strangely astute question, because yes, I was very surprised by just how much I liked it. As with the Hereditary example above, I knew Iíd probably enjoy it, but it turned out to be a ďthe sort of film you like done the way you like itĒ, like a personalised experience almost.

What has really worked for me in both Hereditary and Midsommar is the exploration of ageing in an unashamedly horror-like way, and Iím beginning to think it may be an A24 thing. Iím well aware of the pushback and criticism of many horror films based on precisely that, ie that it is unfair/inappropriate to demonise ageing (The Taking of Deborah Logan etc), but to me itís a natural move, given the ample (psychological) horror material engaging with old people on a regular basis provides (yes; I would know). If we donít mind demonising children in the slightest in horror, why not the elderly population? Iíd say X is the best itís been done, as Pearlís actions are entirely non-supernatural and therefore canít be dismissed/blamed on any entity. I also donít take her as being in the least bit ďconfusedĒ - to me, sheís just a good old committed serial killer.

Iíll need to rewatch X to offer a more targeted comment/critique, but so far I think this is the best Iíve seen it done when it comes to evil elders, even better than Hereditary. Some moments are shockingly accurate, and thatís what makes them work: my grandmother did get into peopleís beds entirely in the nude towards the end of her life and pressed herself to sleepersí body etc, so that one was gold to me. Iíve always been a huge fan of Mia Goth and have often felt frustrated that her talents have been under-utilised in many genre films, such as A Cure for Wellness. Completely agree that she knocks it out of the park here, and I, too, loved Bobby-Lynne. Also nothing really fell out of place, even the alligators, though it could easily have looked like ďthrowing way too much shit at charactersĒ.

As someone whoís long lamented the lack of explicit sex scenes, to me that aspect was also a huge point in Xís favour. Itís very brave to portray elderly people as sexual (though it shouldnít be - speaking of political correctness and such, that one last bastion has until X remained something not to be touched with a ten-foot pole). I do think an argument can be made that films like Amour are a better avenue for exploring that than horror, but I also think that horror has an inherent, Freudian, inalienable eroticism to it that itís mad not to utilise. That eroticism and the way Pearlís sexuality is portrayed might be my favourite aspect of the film. In my usual unhelpful way, I also think that X shows how sometimes a male director can do an excellent job of exploring female sexuality - itís obviously no more than a hunch, but to me itís inconceivable that a female director could portray the Pearl/Howard relationship like that. Itís definitely worth asking/exploring why the audience is likely to find this sexual relationship unsettling, if not off-putting (apart from the expectation/trope that the elderly need stewardship, are asexual and lack agency, which is addressed well when Pearl rebuffs Maxine trying to act ďcaringĒ), but I also like it that X doesnít probe that and instead makes use of the discomfort. Yet somehow the film is indeed also tender and moving. Great stuff.

Iíll definitely be rewatching it very soon and will hopefully be able to offer a more coherent comment. My first viewing was among my least successful cinema trips, actually, but that kind of added to the weirdness of it all and the film, so I donít regret it. I booked my favourite seat at my favourite Everyman branch late at night, and then a group of teenage Insta-queens turned up 5 minutes late, asked me to move from my carefully chosen seat (I didnít) and then proceeded to walk around, share snacks literally over my body, film each other and the screen (yes, really, Iím pretty sure thatís still illegal?), take selfies with the flash on and moreÖ. Some polite guy behind us asked them to stop in a super-mild way, and they obviously didnít; in a sense I took it in my stride and found it kind of amusing - I canít say it ruined my viewing experience, oddly enough, it was so profoundly weird and grotesque that it seemed fitting in a sense for that kind of film - but it was when one of them answered a phone call and proceeded to talk during the kills that I got them kicked out. I never really do that sort of unnecessary bitchy thing, and I did appreciate the irony of ďthose obnoxious kidsĒ being a trope - even in the very film we were all watching. However they were really out there, the first time in years that Iíd seen anything like that, especially given that Everyman isnít cheap and the people who turn up tend to cherish the experience. Anyway, the whole thing did leave an impression, but the film may well become one of my favourites.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
I also enjoyed X, but not to the
degree that you did.

I appreciated the aesthetic, which Ti West always seems to nail with his films as well as the slow burn first half letting us sit with the characters and their current predicaments.

To me, the stand out scene is the overhead shot of Goth sprawled out in the water. It's pretty intense and separate from the other conflict with the elderly couple. I also liked the themes of being young and ambitious versus old and missed opportunities. I also was surprised to learn of the dual roles and wonder what my impression of the scenes would have been knowing that beforehand.

I'm not entirely sold on the commentary on the porn industry the film barely explores. I felt like it was ultimately window dressing with no real intention behind it.

I'm making an effort to go to the movies more and support films I want to see do well. I saw X in a theatre of maybe 8 people? I want to see more movies like this, just because they feel different.

I look forward to the prequel.
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