Last week I joined up with fellow Surgeon Myles Davies to watch Ti West’s latest turn behind the camera with his seventies inspired horror slasher flick, X.
A couple of days later, my colleague fired up the following tweet to cast his judgement before the world.
But what prompted this response from our slasher surgeon guru?
What compelled him to go Cujo frothing crazy?
Was he merely spouting foreign tongue, possessed by Satan’s work?
Or was there a method to the madness and perhaps people should sit up and take note of his prophecy?
Well, let’s throw the beast onto the mortician’s slab and dissect the film to get to the heart of it.
It’s been about six years since West sat in the directors chair for a feature length movie, and his subject of choice is a love song to the late sixties and early seventies with the infusion of sex and slasher horror.
There are obvious nods to the porno scene that had infiltrated the movie Plex with films such as Debbie Does Dallas, opening to dorr for adventurous and risky filmmakers to make their mark with cheap, low budget, guerrilla style approach to the medium.
Similarly the slasher scene was starting to raise its head, notably through The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper and from which West draws the bulk of his inspiration from.
West is clearly a man who knows his field though with suitable nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Kubrick’s The Shining, and even early 80s horror flick Alligator.
X follows a group of young filmmakers intent on making an adult movie that could launch them to stardom; whether it was through escapism, to be famous, or for the money. Leading the stakes with that certain X factor is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), a stripper and pornographic film actress. Joining her on their filming expedition is her boyfriend and producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), fellow actors Bobby Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi), Director RJ (Owen Capbell), and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega).
Their choice of location happens to be a farmhouse in Texas (of course) and much like its inspiration, there’s more than meets the eye from its occupants, but not necessarily how you would expect… an elderly couple. Pearl (also Goth) is unwilling to let go of her sexuality just because of her age; and Howard (Stephen Ure) who will stop at nothing to satisfy her needs, but time may not be on his side.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and all it takes is one simple flip to turn our intrepid pioneers in filmmaking to be pushed into a world where they may not return from. Once the characters and setting take hold, West then lets loose with a slasher frenzy of delight, painting his celluloid brush with the artistic style and grace that the genre lends its name from, dabbing from a palette of iconic horror visuals to stimulate the audience with.
X is more than a homage to films of yester-year though as West immediately lures us in with the style from the era, both visually and auditorily, scintillating the senses. As he subjects us to the charm of the movie, West then pulls us in further with rich characterisation, who on face value appear to be stereotypes of the decade, but beneath the surface are more than their appearance depicts.
In fact, West’s masterstroke is in forcing the viewer to look beneath the surface of these characters, delving deep into their personalities and forcing their true selves to the fore.
The biggest component that Wast dapples with is the social stigma that age has on society, and how sex can diminish when time plays its part on us all. Does age damage the psyche? When we are left with our souls, and our body begins to fail us, what makes us worthy then when we aren’t able to let go of our sensuality?
So what is the conclusion?
Is this as Myles states, a potential contender for horror film of the year?
Ti West serves up a beautifully shot movie that sparks nostalgia and awakening to the slasher genre. The performances, especially from Mia Goth in her dual role are an absolute delight.
And the slow burn tension that flicks with humour and horror is perfectly balanced throughout the film. Plus the use of age and fear of ageism in the wake of losing one’s sexuality as the central theme is a bold but rewarding one.
West has always proved to be a quiet achiever from the mumblegore movement, but deserves more praise for his efforts.
X has just elevated his profile further and with the promise of turning the movie into a trilogy and a prequel called Pearl due later in the year, West could very well have made the best horror film of the year. Stay tuned 2022.
- Saul Muerte