SXSW: X Review
With the new X, horror author Ti West has returned from a six-year hiatus to make a stylish and entertaining take on the slasher flick, a film set in the world of low-budget pornography set in 1979 Texas. It’s a top notch slasher movie, built around a very original idea and featuring a fair amount of laughs.
Xa 2022 South by Southwest debut album hitting theaters on Friday, a perfect fit for the Midnighters section of the festival, or a late night screening at a theater near you (unfortunately the title isn’t easy for Google.) And while it represents West’s first film as a director since 2016 In a valley of violencethe director secretly shot a prequel at the same time, so the wait for his next movie won’t be quite as long.
The film follows a small company of pornographers – not in the glamorous porn world of the San Fernando Valley boogie nights, but rather the small independent world of Texas, renting a rural farm to shoot a “farmer’s daughter,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
Martin Henderson plays against type as Wayne, the band’s impresario, leads star stripper Maxine (Mia Goth.) Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi) and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) play big stars, and along of the ride are a snooty type film student (Owen Campbell) and his young girlfriend (Jenna Ortega.)
They rent the farm to an elderly couple, who seem creepy at first and turn out to have very specific motives that I wouldn’t dream of messing up. Howard the Old Man is played by Stephen Ure, alternately shot so successfully from the shadows that for most of the movie I thought he was Bruce Dern.
It’s all very enjoyable, with the cast delivering some great performances that are largely against type. Looks like Mescudi came off the set of Treewhile Snow — better known since Perfect movies — embodies the Southern porn star perfectly. Owen Campbell puts a nice spin on a familiar guy, a pretentious type of movie kid who slumps him by making an adult picture.
But the movie belongs to Mia Goth, the actress of Suspiria, who plays a great character. X has very little in common with boogie nights, period and porn topic aside, but Goth manages to deliver a version of Dirk Diggler’s “I’m a Star” monologue, and we soon find out she has more than meets the eye. A scene where she swims and faces near peril is one of the best-filmed sequences of the year.
The film, in keeping with recent traditions, keeps nudity fairly gender balanced; a brief moment of male frontal led the gentleman sitting in front of me to blurt out “damn!” Goth for the most part sport suits from the movie, complete with sideboob, which I expect to become a popular Halloween costume next fall.
X comes from A24 which, with Zola and red rocket last year and X now has conquered the market for classy and elegant movies about sex workers and porn performers. I still laugh at the name written on their van.
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