If you’re a Ti West fan, get ready to have a new favorite movie of his…
…That’s because the writer/director behind The House of the Devil and The Sacrament is about to unleash the 70s exploitation inspired nightmare that is X. Trust me when I say, you all aint ready. Nothing can prepare you for this seriously fucked up picture.
Set in 1979, Texas, X follows a group of fresh, young filmmakers out to make a porno called “The Farmer’s Daughter” with their sights set on fame and fortune. Sleazy producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) has rented out a house on the property of creepy old religious nut Howard (Stephen Ure) and his mysterious wife. Only Wayne didn’t tell Howard he’d be bringing a whole group, and he certainly didn’t tell him they’d be shooting a porn, so when Howard’s wife stumbles upon the “sinful” shoot, the crew suddenly find themselves no longer on the set of a porno, but in an all too real arena of pure horror.
A throwback to the extreme cinema of the 70s, X is like the sex fiend cousin of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Taking plenty of cues from Hooper’s classic, West’s film drops the audience right into the sun-scorched horror of this Texas bloodbath, opening on the aftermath of what we’ll call The Farmer’s Daughter Massacre. Flies buzzing. Bloody bodies covered in sheets. Boatloads of the red stuff covering the walls. It’s enough to get the gorehounds drooling and everyone else squirming, because one thing is immediately clear: You’re in for one hell of a grisly show.
Cut to the day before and a banging soundtrack that consistently makes you want to get up and dance, and we’re introduced to Wayne and a cast of heartthrobs with larger than life personalities that smash through the screen and into your dreams. There’s Brittany Snow, who makes a welcome return to horror as Bobby-Lynne, a Marilyn Monroe type who loves to work the gifts god gave her; Jackson (Kid Cudi), an ex-marine and the stud of the picture; The dorky director, RJ (Owen Campbell) and his quiet girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), or “Church Mouse”, as they call her; And the hypnotic Mia Goth as Maxine, a wannabe actress who believes she’s destined for more in life. Every one of them deserves a mention because each absolutely slays their roles, assisted by a pitch-perfect script from West that’s littered with memorable dialogue.
Ti West is at the top of his game with X. RJ frequently mentions that he’s taking an “avant garde” approach to make their porn “art”, and you could say West is doing the same. On paper, X is X-rated, pure, exploitative sleaze. Sex, drugs, and oh so much gore, X delivers on it all. Yet West doesn’t tackle this like just another grindhouse movie. Every element of the film is punched up to make it an experience to remember. Eliot Rockett’s cinematography is breathtaking. The frame is masterfully positioned to produce maximum tension, such as an overhanging wide-shot that sees one character on their back in a lake, slowly approached by a gator. Stylistic editing by West and David Kashevaroff creates perfectly timed shocks sure to illicit a few screams. And the haunting score from Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe pricks at your flesh like a sharp talon and gets your hair standing on edge.
West has taken everything he’s learned from his previous work and blended it together into one nasty, tense, bloody as hell thrill ride. X is a masterpiece of terror, and Ti West is the X-factor.
A combination of films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaten Alive, I Spit on Your Grave and the like, X is a grindhouse fan’s blood-red wet dream. Brittany Snow at one point shouts something like, “let’s give the people what they want,” and you’d better believe this film does exactly that. X is X-cessively horny for all things grindhouse. Aside from a whole lot of tits, ass and dicks—yay for all-inclusive nudity—West splashes the screen red with an orgy of gore and unexpected thrills. I can almost imagine him on set, looking at a massive pile of guts and shouting “MORE”! It doesn’t hold back any punches. Instead, it sticks a pitchfork in you and makes you squeal. But it’s not just the gore. X goes to another level of sexual weirdness that is going to make you uncomfortable. You’re going to cringe. You’re going to gasp. You might even wish to pour acid over your eyes.
I mean it when I say, you are not ready.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, a movie about killer old people? That sounds silly. Guess what? It is! And West knows it. X is self-aware camp and understands there are going to be laughs, so he gives the audience plenty of opportunity to do just that so he can smack you in the face with blood-curdling terror a second later. It’s a gut-buster of a horror comedy that consistently subverts expectations with hilarious results. If you’re not screaming, you’re dying from laughter. That being said, we live in a society that too often dismisses the old, and X aims to slit the throat of your ageist takes and convince you of one important lesson; Don’t fuck with old people.
Thank the film gods that a prequel to X has already been shot, because I need more. X is a sensational crowd pleaser with the energy of a wild bull rampaging through a slaughterhouse. The depravity of it all won’t be for everyone and I’m sure some won’t realize sillier moments are meant to be funny, but for those willing to give it a chance, prepare yourselves, because you are in for one goddamned, fucked up horror picture.
If you've been saying we don't get a lot of good slashers anymore, (I disagree), then you need to go see this. X is without a doubt one of the best slashers in years.
X comes to theaters on March 18th from A24.
By Matt Konopka