In 1918, a young woman on the brink of madness pursues stardom in a desperate attempt to escape the drudgery, isolation and lovelessness of life on her parents’ farm.
Ti West’s ‘X’ was one of the most entertaining horror movies of last year, with Mia Goth’s dual performance as both the main protagonist and antagonist up there with the best of the year. West was clearly confident in the success of ‘X’ to the extent that he shot ‘Pearl’ back to back, a prequel movie focusing on X’s elderly antagonist in her younger years – giving Goth a chance to play the character without all the prosthetics required to make her look so old in ‘X’.
‘Pearl’ takes place at the same farmhouse in 1918 amidst the end of the First World War in Europe and a flu pandemic closer to home, where Pearl lives with her domineering mother and her disabled father. She rarely gets out, but when she does she goes to the local cinema where she is captivated by the movies she sees, sparking an ambition to become a dancer who features in the movies – something which her mother is clearly not supportive of. As a prequel this is by definition an origin story, and for those who saw ‘X’ (which I imagine is most people who see this) it’ll come as no surprise that we start to see the murderous seeds being sown in Pearl’s mistreatment of her disabled father and some of the animals on the farm. This escalates as ‘Pearl’ progresses and as we see Pearl’s frustration with her boring life increase, her murderous impulses start to become more prominent.
As a bit of a cinephile I enjoyed the pastiches of classic Hollywood and the bright and colourful cinematography is a perfect fit for the setting and story being told. Mia Goth (who is also in Branden Cronenbourg’s latest horror ‘Infinity Pool’, which is out soon) continues to cement herself as the leading ‘scream queen’ of her generation and while I didn’t enjoy this prequel as much as I did ‘X’, it did entertain with a solid story and good performances from Goth in particular.
Directed By: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro and Alistair Sewell