“X” is Go See It Cinema. So go see it.

“If I’m gonna be having sex for you, I’m gonna need cigarettes.” [GOD BLESS GRINDHOUSE Y’ALL]

Genre I’d put it in: Artsy Exploitation Horror Homages
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: You’ll get whiffs of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original), Psycho (ditto) and Midsommar, but this is an original.

Story: It’s 1979, and Maxine’s joining her fellow burlesque buddies in leaving Houston, Texas for a tiny town outside of nowhere. Why? Because they’re gonna Do A Pr0no, and small towns equal cheap fees. But the elderly couple that own the farm Our Gang has decided to film on don’t much like the looks of these saucy city folk. Not one little bit. But look! Hey big guy, sun’s gettin’ real low. This is not that movie. Not one little bit.

Gotta say: Holy crap I love this movie. In fact, I want to watch it again immediately. Thank you for reading this review. See y’all later… What? Fine. I’ll dig in a bit further. As much as I’m a horror fiend, I have to admit I’ve been a bit wary of genre fare of late. The bulk are either a bit too pretentious, a bit too shabby in the plotting/acting/everything, or almost good but not quite & that not quite really pisses me off. So when I tell you I am absolutely totally over the moon with X? I’m serious.

I love this movie not just because I’m a horrorhound. My film-school-nerd brain loves the gorgeous cinematography, the way Ti West uses split screens to hark back to 70s explitation/grindhouse films, and the way the sound editing feels like a character to cheer on all on its own. And my movie critic brain loves the seamless blending of 70s genres and 21st Century art-house filmmaking. There’s so much to love here if you’re into any kind of genre work, if you’re into filmmaking, and/or just into films about filmmaking. Then there’s the awesome soundtrack, filled with a mix of 70’s radio rock and country, gospel hymns, and an original cover of “Oui Oui Marie” by Chelsea Wolfe. Yeah sure; buckle up for the in-your-face gore and boobies, but c’mon. Exploitation is as exploitation does, and Ti West does it perfectly here. Fair warning: while I absolutely loved this film and it’ll most probably be in my Ten Best Films of 2022 list? Do bear in mind that X is a love letter to grindhouse cinema, and for most people, the gore will feel like it’s cranked to 11. Consider your own personal threshold; one guy at the showing I attended rolled out less than halfway through. FYI, yada yada.

The cast looks like they’re enjoying themselves by straddling the line between art and trash, and I loved watching them work. Okay, so Martin Henderson channels his inner Matthew McConaughey as “Executive Producer” Wayne. But I have a feeling that’s on purpose, as the character is just over-the-top enough to love. Plus? All the characters in Our Gang are so…nice. Yes. They’re good natured, kind-hearted folks who’d do anything for you, even if it’s the middle of the night and you’re looking mighty sus. As these characters meet what’s in store for them, the combination of excellent performances and well-thought-out characterization made me give a damn about what might happen/was happening to them. Can a horror film break your heart? Yes, it absolutely can. And this one broke mine a few times. It was glorious.

Writer/director West crafted a film that not only ticks the boxes of horror, but delivers a story that feels like it could have actually happened way out in the boonies, in the same way the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre did, yet has that A24 arthouse aesthetic we can all pick out of a lineup. The film slips from scenes where you’re watching they film they’re making and can see the grain in the film, to crystal-clear, artfully shot moments of beauty, suspense, and exposition. Sometimes all three together. Alligator, all I’m saying. West knows the “show don’t tell” assignment, and you won’t want to look away from the screen, or you’ll miss crucial tidbits of the plot. Luckily, you won’t want to look away. Not even when the gore starts to hit the fan. And with themes of sexual freedom, jealousy, fundamentalism, longing, and knowing oneself? It’s not only brilliantly bloody, it’s fascinating to watch unfold.

As this film released in March – which used to be a dumping ground for horror – I’m really worried X is going to be swept under the rug. Especially as I haven’t really seen much in the way of marketing for this film, and the folks I’ve talked this movie up to hadn’t even known it existed ’til I brought it up. But I hope X gets the love it deserves. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go crank up some Mungo Jerry, put on my cutoff overalls, and hang out outside with some lemonade. I’ll go in when the sun is setting. That’s officially part of my whole Horror Movie Survival Training now.

Oh, and stay through the end credits for a peek at the prequel Ti West made, called Pearl. set in 1918. It’s got “Coming Soon” text splashed on it, but otherwise we’ve gotta wait for more. I want it NOW.

#Protip: I’ve put what I could find on the playlist below, but if anyone can find the OG studio playlist on Spotify? Send it my way. Please.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
This entry was posted in 7 Pieces Of, In Horror and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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