Xqusite; Xtreme; Xcellent
There was a lot of fuss in the horror community about X when it was released, and with reason. X is a very clever horror film that goes to great lengths to try to get you not to notice that. It wears stripper heels, torn fishnets, and a low-cut dress, all to try to stop you from spotting its genuine class. It wears a veneer of trash, like proud retro clothing, even to the extent of making its leads members of a porn film crew.
This review is going to be necessarily vague simply because too much detail would spoil some of the twists and this is a film that deserves to be seen without spoilers.
So yeah, it’s 1979 and aspiring porn actress Maxine and producer boyfriend Wayne are off to Texas to film an adult movie. There are a number of nods to classic slashers but this is the first indicator that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre runs deeply through its DNA (it could almost be considered a love letter to that old classic). Wayne has hired the guest house on the grounds of elderly Howard and Pearl’s rural farm.
Sexuality is at the heart of this movie and it spreads insidiously out from the initial obvious framing of the porn film, becoming darker and more twisted as it starts to influence all the players’ actions. In particular, it illuminates the nature of the film’s antagonist, who has perhaps the most unusual motivation I’ve ever seen in a horror film (you really will not see this one coming!)
There is delicious cinematography throughout – again, though, it is at pains not to be overt. There is clever foreshadowing of future events, subtle framing tributes to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and other classic slashers), and some beautifully chosen camera angles (a particular favourite was the ‘sky eye’ shot, looking down on an approaching alligator).
Director Ti West secretly shot a prequel – Pearl – back-to-back, which came out earlier this month, and a sequel – MaxXxine – is in development.
Plenty more X appeal to come, then!
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