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X Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Nudity, sex, blood and gore. This period slasher has it all! But can it be a convincing horror trip, or is it a simple knock-off?

Genre: Horror / Thriller

Director: Ti West

Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure & James Gaylyn.

Run Time: 105 min.

US Release: 18 March 2022

UK Release: 18 March 2022

German Release: 05 May 2022

Horror just might be my favourite genre, difficult to say as it always switches places with science fiction. I see them as thrill-rides in theatres, where every tense moment, every scare is an adrenaline-inducing free-fall! Horror is, like comedy, one of the harder genres to get right; with A24 proving over the years that they have an eye for bringing on directors that can handle the genre. Ti West’s new flick is no different and while at first glance, it might look like a simple slasher, there is more subtext underneath its gory exterior! I was riveted from the beginning till the end, so let's talk about X!

A group of young porn filmmakers set out to make their break-out adult film in rural Texas. Shaking up on a farm, belonging to an elderly couple, the group soon finds themselves fighting for their lives as they start being picked off one by one.

Apart from directing, Ti West also wrote the script for X and what he delivered is a homage to old-school 70s slashers, mainly The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with all their quirks and cliches. However, underneath the typical formula lingers a much richer story, with smart, funny subtext about the standards of the genre, as well as meta-references about the production of not-so-popular movie categories and audience expectations. This combination made for an incredibly insightful and entertaining flick that never lost its creep factor.

It is no coincidence that West chose a pornography shoot as a metaphor for horror filmmaking; sex and death have been a combination for years. What elevates this picture from its usual slasher brethren, is the fact that the crew are trying to create more than just a cliche product, they are trying to make the first real artistic adult film that doesn't reduce itself to the simplicity of pleasures. An interesting allegory to some horror writers and directors, who want to produce more than just a scare-jump fest. The plot also contains a lot of double standards on that topic, which it exposes during conversations with characters that feel real.

It also leaves some plot points open, not spoon-feeding everything to the viewer. There are segments where one doesn’t get full answers, mostly working to the story’s benefit, as it elevates the disturbing atmosphere. It also harms the narrative at times, though, as it wouldn’t have hurt the film to reveal a little more about its antagonists since some aspects really left the audience scratching their heads, not able to follow one hundred per cent.

Each and every single person on the film crew, as well as the old couple renting their farmhouse, obtained enough development to make them feel like real human beings.

I don’t like to spoil new movies in my reviews, yet it is impossible to talk about the following without revealing mild spoilers, so be warned! If you want to see X with completely neutral eyes, skip this paragraph! Mia Goth is playing a double role; she is Maxin Minx, an up-and-coming porn starlet, with big dreams of fame and glory, as well as playing the elderly Pearl, Howard's wife, who is going through a crisis of age, feeling unattractive or unwanted.

Both characters couldn’t be more different and Goth nails both characters, especially Pearl who is an antagonist with depth, that the audience actually starts feeling sorry for. Maxin, on the other hand, is a strong female character with an intriguing past that is not fully revealed until the end. The young star has a lot of layers to her character, which starts flourishing once she gets in danger.

Martin Henderson is Wayne Gilroy, an independent porno producer and Minx’s boyfriend, who wants to make a name for himself in the genre, by hiring RJ (Owen Campbell) as director/cameraman, to create the first classy and artistic dirty movie. Henderson was not only likeable as his persona Wayne but also surprisingly funny.

Jenna Ortega is an up-and-coming star in this genre, having appeared in this year's previous Scream 5 and Studio 666. She takes on the role of Lorraine, RJ’s religious, even somewhat uptight girlfriend, who quickly throws her morals overboard, once she sees the pleasure Jackson Hole gives Minx and Lynne. Lorraine is an amalgamation of the typical “virgin” character used in the horror genre.

Brittany Snow and Kid Cudi are portraying Bobby-Lynne and Jackson Hole respectively; two pornographic actors that have been in the genre for a longer time than Maxin. Both don’t kid themselves like the rest of the crew, knowing exactly who they are, liking what they are doing on set. Their beliefs clash with some of the others, but they are honest and open about it.

Stephen Ure, playing Pearl’s husband Howard, gives an amazing disturbing performance! Howard himself gives the audience immediate feelings of discomfort, as soon as he appears on screen, yet one can not come to feel pity for him.

Cinematographer Eliot Rockett created a stunning-looking horror flick, weaving scenes of horror and porn together, which made for even more disturbing imagery. While it doesn’t shy away from showing some heavy bloody moments, it also cuts away every few scenes to let the viewers use their imagination. The editing choices added to the creep factor, with the mix between 35mm film and the pornographic 16mm shots, which the character RJ shoots in the story. The nude segments were tasteful, never objectifying the female actresses.

The make-up and prosthetics used for the character of Pearl, are off the charts, looking freakishly life-like. The make-up and special effects department put a lot of work into using practical effects for gory scenes, to make them look as realistic as possible. VFX was used for the background scenery, to make Wellington, New Zealand look like Texas.


Verdict: Ti West's new horror flick, marks his return to the genre after having been absent for nearly a decade, being one of his best cinematic projects as well as an amazing slasher film. The narrative not only pays homage to the ’70s and ‘80s slashers, but it also includes meta-references, discusses moral issues, as well as double standards and contains a surprising amount of black humour. All of the characters are equally developed, including the antagonists, who have been given a reason for going on a killing spree. The camera work is brilliant, staying true to its 70s inspiration by filming on celluloid. The effects are mostly practical, with VFX being used for background or scenery. In the end, X is another fantastic A24 picture, deserving an 8.0 out of 10. This is a horror flick that should not be missed!

Have you seen Ti West’s new slasher yet? What did you think? Leave a comment and subscribe if you like my content.

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