Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Ti West makes a wonderful return to horror in X

Acclaimed horror director Ti West makes a welcome return to cinemas in X from A24. The year is 1979, and scrupulous businessman Wayne (Martin Henderson) wants to break into the booming pornography industry. Wayne heads rural Texas to begin filming The Farmer’s Daughter with aspiring directors (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega).

Cast in the amateur porn flick is Wayne’s girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), his coworker Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and her boyfriend Jackson (Kid Cudi). Things appear to be going according to plan under the noses of their reclusive hosts, Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Mia Goth). However, when the elderly couple catches their young guests in the act, the group finds themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.

Since his 2005 debut, The Roost, West has built a solid fan base among horror fans, so his return to the genre is welcome. Ti West’s last foray into feature directing was the western, In a Valley of Violence. West has not directed anything horror since 2013’s The Sacrament outside of some television work.

X appears as a love letter from West to the slasher genre from the jump. West could have quickly gone the parody route and had similar results. Instead, West had made what I see as an art-house slasher flick. West has a winner on his hands, whether it is the cinematography or the nuances of moviemaking terms that RJ drops throughout the film. West takes his time with the character building and atmosphere, making us wait for the carnage. Gore fans can rest assured that your patience is rewarded when the massacre does happen.

I honestly cannot think of the last slasher film I viewed where none of the victims were not likable. However, that’s part of the film’s brilliance as we become attached to the characters, and thus when we lose them, it stings a bit more. The cast all give first performances, with Stephen Ure giving off the right vibes of a creepy older man. Fresh off her appearances in this year’s Studio 666 and Scream, Jenna Ortega delivers another concrete performance as a scream queen. While veterans Martin Henderson and Britany Snow continue to impress.

Rapper Kid Cudi also continues to impress with his acting talents. I credit West and the way the script handles Cudi’s character of Jackson as the role could have quickly become stereotypical. Finally yet importantly, Mia Goth plays both Maxine and Pearl, the main protagonist and antagonist, respectively. If I one gripe about the film, it is that the promotional department made the reveal of Goth playing both roles.

Sitting in the theater the moment Pearl makes her initial appearance; I knew it was Goth under the makeup. I think most of the audience would have liked this as a reveal in the credits. Goth effectively juggles both roles, as both characters are different on the surface but have a similar backstory.

Focusing on the art of filmmaking instead of slasher film tropes, X is a lovely return to the genre for director Ti West. Make sure and stay through the credits for a special surprise.

Final Grade: A-

X opens in theaters today

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