Now, this is what I’m talkin’ about.
Ti West’s X is the kind of movie I want to see. Mind you, there is stuff in it so gross that, well, I could’ve done without seeing it. Yet the movie is a deranged hoot from start to finish that reminds me of why going to the movies is special. It reminded me, in ways, of the first time I saw Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Sometimes, a great time at the movies is the kind that elicits shock, but also elicits laughter at the madness of it all, but it’s all in good fun. X, like Get Out, is the kind of movie you take your friends to to see how they’ll react. I had a great time… or maybe I just have a sick sense of humor.
X is indeed a horror movie, and it is a horror movie that loves the grindhouse films of the 70s. It’s also very aware of its genre, and in the most loving of ways, it has no issue poking fun at it. But again, it’s done with love. X is a complete gas; the kind of movie that would’ve been a smash in another time, but I fear it might not be finding its audience. Which is why I have chosen to break out of my writing slumber, and spread the word of it.
This is an ensemble piece, but front and center is Mia Goth’s Maxine, the fiance of a handsome pornographer named Wayne (Martin Henderson, a delight). Set in 1979, the two of them, along with their cast, are heading off to Texas to film a porno called The Farmer’s Daughter. The cast includes Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow, stealing the show), the floozy star who is kind of dating Jackson (Kid Cudi), a former Marine and co-star; Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), in charge of audio and also dating RJ (Owen Campbell), the cinematographer, who is dead-set on making a masterpiece. The film has a lot of fun tapping into the spirit of 1970’s porn, and the actors here are having fun with it. They’re such good company that begin to fear for them, too.
The production is set to be on a small farm, and Wayne is renting a guest house on the farm for the night, for both sleeping and… well, more sleeping. If you know what movie this is though, you’ll know that something is afoot immediately. The farm is owned by an old couple, and they’re… strange. Very ugly (West holds off on showing us their complete faces for a good while), but also they’re just complete weirdos. The wife invites Maxine in for lemonade, strokes her arm, and says, “this’ll be our little secret.” To which Maxine aptly replies with, “What?” Yet with their strangeness, it’s pretty safe to say that we know something is going to go awry. If you ask me, the porno cast is a little too trusting; the very sight of these people would be enough to send me running. But if they weren’t, would we have a movie?
X is definitely unsettling, but it’s unsettling with something of a wink. You’ll laugh because the dialogue and the way in which the actors react and deliver it is genuinely funny. Yet you’ll also laugh because when this movie ups the ante and goes totally bananas, I’ll be damned if it didn’t get repeated laughter from me. This film contains some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in some time, and I left the theatre in somewhat of a high. Also perhaps because they end the movie with a pretty clever twist, and a pretty sick needledrop.
West’s other directing credits include The House of the Devil and V/H/S, and looking at his IMDb, I’ll confess that I don’t believe I’ve seen any of his other movies. I have full stock in him after this film though. His filmmaking is stylish, but also effective is the storytelling. West does a pretty great job of infusing the story with dread and unease throughout, and even though you might know the destination that it’s going to reach, you’ll be on edge until it gets there. Mainly because the antagonists here are… really strange, but distinct and memorable. Their comes a moment with them late into the game that I know I’ll never un-see, and you gotta just respect the hell out of West for going for it.
God, it seems that with every passing A24 movie, I’m further reminded of just how wonderful they are. They take on this sophisticated, original works of art… but they also have no trouble taking on something as delightfully lurid as this movie, or say, Midsommar. I won’t say that this is the year’s best so far (Matt Reeves’ The Batman, despite my negligence in reviewing it, is a massive achievement), but I will say that this is the best time I’ve had at the movies in a while; one that may have just broken my movie reviewing dry spell.
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