In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.
A group of people head out into the sticks is the basic starting point for many a horror movie and that is no different for Ti West’s latest movie that plays around with that trope in the fun and gory slasher movie ‘X’. The plot follows a cast and crew who have rented out a boarding house next to a farm to make a pornographic movie, unbeknownst to the elderly couple who live in the main property. The elderly couple that inhabit the house seem a bit odd and reclusive at first but it becomes clear they’re a bit more sinister than that and well, you can probably work out where the movie goes from here.
‘X’ is set in Texas and it plays out as a loving homage to ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’, but it isn’t just another rip-off – there is some fresh insight added to the formula we’ve come to expect. Mia Goth as actress Maxine is our main protagonist, with the rest of the group made up of her boyfriend and producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), fellow stars Jackson (Scott Mescudi) and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and director RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend (Jenna Ortega). It’s set in 1979 and they’re attempting to crack the home video market, with RJ keen to make a more artistic adult movie than is perhaps expected for the genre. There is fun to be had in the construction of the porn movie and I felt the actors did a good job of playing up to and in some cases playing past the archetypal roles they are performing. One of the themes explored is the nature of youth and the contrast between the young, enthusiastic cast and crew, and the elderly and frail couple who are at turns envious, disgusted and intrigued by their visitors.
I liked that ‘X’ took its time introducing its characters as it meant it had more weight when the inevitable blood and gore starts to flow, and there were some nice elements of Chekhov’s Gun utilised to good effect. It benefits from its villains being real people with a motivation (however unjustified), and I thought it was particularly well shot with West using a variety of camera angles, sharp editing and almost dreamlike staging to blend reality, the movie within the movie, and particularly Maxine’s state of mind. ‘X’ is a fun horror movie that delivers a good riff on its influences, although not sure the extended universe West is hinting holds that much appeal – after all most sequels are a series of diminishing returns, particularly in the horror genre.
Directed By: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Scott Mescudi, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure and James Gaylyn