Ty West’s X follows a group of filmmakers making a pornographic film in rural Texas unbeknownst to the elderly couple renting them the cabin. When the couple discovers the truth, the group priority shifts from moviemaking to survival. X taps into the nostalgia for classic older horror films and, through some subversion, surprises audiences like memorable classics. Ty West directs a horror that moves beyond simple slaughter. He expands into a broader discussion of religion, sexuality, and gender, thereby making X a slasher joyride with something more to say. 

The film opens with police on a property with bodies covered in sheets. As Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn) moves through the house, we see a preacher sermonizing on the television. When Sheriff Dentler heads to the basement, whatever he and the deputy see stops them in their horrified tracks. Then we travel back to the events that led up to the mayhem. Maxine (Mia Goth) and Wayne (Martin Henderson), along with their duo camera crew RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). Also in tow are couple Jackson (Kid Cudi) and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), pack into a vehicle to come to that remote home and cabin. 

Themes Drenched In Horror

X image of Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn)
X still of Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn) courtesy of A24

X explores themes of sin, youth, and the American dream. There are symbols, along with the creepy preacher sermonizing on the television, interspersed throughout the film. The film does not seek the standard final girl. Everyone wants to achieve a goal, but the women struggle under the stifling religious and patriarchal constraints that trap women. When Pearl obsesses over Maxine, Pearl resents her stifled youth combined with that need to capture youth through possessing. On top of that, X explores age and regret. In this sense, X moves beyond horror entertainment and becomes something far more compelling. 

Scream Queens Deux

X image of RJ (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) in front, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Kid Cudi) behind
X image of RJ (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) in front, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Kid Cudi) behind. Courtesy of A24

Mia Goth and Jenna Ortega stand out in their roles. Maxine’s American dream is to be famous, beloved, and she is comfortable with her sexuality. But Maxine also has to recite a phrase to herself almost as a reminder to stay the course. Lorraine starts quieter and reserved, but I loved how she stood up against her preachy, hypocritical boyfriend. The supposedly open-minded men develop an aversion when applying that sentiment to a partner or family.

The acting stood out among the men as well. Owen Campbell delivers as the sniveling boyfriend, and Martin Henderson was both entertaining and funny. I kept wondering why he was walking around in his underwear in the middle of the night. I reminded myself that clothing is not armor so it does not matter. Kid Cudi did a great job as well and I hope he, in fact all of them, do more horror films in the future.

1970’s Look With 21st Century Effects

X image of Howard (Stephen Ure) and Wayne (Martin Henderson)
X still of Howard (Stephen Ure) and Wayne (Martin Henderson). Courtesy of A24

The slasher is anything but traditional, save the aesthetic. Death scenes are gorier and not straight hack and slash, so they surprised me. That is in thanks to the 70’s horror feel. It lulls you into preconceived expectations regarding the bloodshed, so each death is shocking. The music that plays over a certain death made it even uncomfortable. Something about a well-timed song during horrific scenes sears the image into the brain, and X pulls that off. 

X does not reinvent the wheel, but the film incorporates an old-school style with a present-day awareness that captivates. That combined with an auteur aesthetic makes X captivating; you’re unable to look away. Not only will horror fans flock to X, but fans of films with nuance regarding how the world viewed, and sadly still currently views, women’s roles in society. A film should entertain first and foremost, but with something deeper beyond standard genre fare, the film becomes more; X delivers on that.

X trailer from Youtube via A24

1 Reply to “X Review”

Comments are closed.