Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ti West’s X, on DVD

This is one of the few horror movies that makes Airbnb look like a good idea, because it leaves behind a digital paper-trail, should guests disappear. It also makes a good case for voting Libertarian, so a libertine, aspiring dirty-movie king like Wayne Gilroy wouldn’t have to shoot his skin flick in East Jesus, Texas, for reasons of economics and regulations. Alas, his hosts will be keenly interested in what he and his cast get up to in Ti West’s X, which releases today on DVD.

Maxine Minx is convinced she is a star and Gilroy’s
Farmer’s Daughter will be the vehicle to launch her career. They will be filming in Howard and Pearl's rustic guest house, because it is so out-of-the-way. The script is exactly what you think it is, but Gilroy hired director-cameraman RJ Nichols to make it look better than the competition. Inevitably, there will be dissension in the group, making them easy pickings for Pearl, a horny old prune, who resents the casts youthfulness and erotic gratification. Alas, her loyal husband Howard can no longer satisfy her, but he can her dump bodies in the pond, for the alligator to feast on.

Yes, Ti West goes there, over and over. Obviously, there is a fair amount of sex, but it really portrays sex-addiction and -obsession as lethally destructive forces. The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre influence is hard to miss, but the addition of the alligator leads to some of the film’s best scenes. West uses some striking overhead shots to tease viewers with its potential menace.

Despite the televangelist who appears to preach non-stop on local television 24-7-365,
X does not play the card demonizing fundamentalist Christianity the way viewers might expect, at least not yet (the promised prequel could be a different story). Frankly, the first half is surprisingly restrained, but West skillfully builds the tension.

West is the sort of filmmaker who seems to run hot (
In the Valley of Violence, The Sacrament, The Innkeepers) and cold (House of the Devil, The ABC’s of Death). Somehow, X manages to be half-and-half. Its richly textured 1970s tackiness nicely celebrates the history and style of early slashers. However, the smarminess of Pearl’s sexual jealousy gets tiresome. It is the kind of thing that gets a ruckus response at a midnight screening, but quickly loses its novelty during the course of a home viewing.

Still, Brittany Snow and Scott Mescudi have the right genre-appropriate attitude and energy, as Minx’s co-stars, Bobby-Lynne and Jackson Hole. James Gaylyn is also all kinds of cool as the Sheriff stepping through the gore during the in media res opening. However, the detachment of Mia Goth’s Minx (partly drug-induced) makes her a hard presumed “final girl” to root for.

On the other hand, Goth is totally unrecognizable and terrifyingly ferocious in the dual role of Pearl. If there is a link between them, beyond the bloody events of
X, it is yet to be revealed. That makes the dual role feel more like a gimmick (albeit a well-executed one) than an aesthetic statement.

is watchable and sometimes pretty entertaining, but it is too over-the-top for its own good. Plus, these killer old people movies, in general, are starting to stretch credibility. Who does Pearl think she is? John Carradine? Still, you have to give West credit for devising a new way of thoroughly creeping out his audience. Earning a moderate recommendation for its craftsmanship, X releases today (5/24) on DVD and BluRay.