X Movie Review
X Movie Review Metadata
X (2022) is an homage to the early days of the modern slasher – Last House on the Left (1972), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and even Sleepaway Camp (1983), but with one crucial difference. X is less of an exploitation film and more of a love letter to the genre. I mean, reality check, they’re making an adult film, and the single X of the title suggests that it’s a vanilla adult film to be sure, but that’s just the bus that gets you there.
X takes its time getting going. It’s a slow build navigating the characters: Wayne (Martin Henderson), ambitious, but level-headed; Jackson (Kid Cudi), a former Marine who embodies the very definition of cocksure (ho-ho); Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), the experienced actress and mother figure; Maxine (Mia Goth), the single-minded young starlet and Wayne’s fiancée; RJ (Owen Campbell), film school grad with very French cinematic ideas; and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), RJ’s girlfriend and his entire crew. She’s nicknamed “Church Mouse” and acts as the audience stand-in as both outsider and willing participant.
No one is held against their will, and the running and screaming come after everyone has gotten to know one another. There isn’t a single supernatural element to be found. Wayne and his crew have traveled to the rural countryside to rent an old guesthouse and barn from an elderly homeowner. They’re given the run of the place, so long as they don’t disturb his wife. Wayne, Jackson, Bobby-Lynne, Maxine, and Lorraine are going to make an adult film; one that will put them on the map and make them stars. Tentatively titled “The Farmer’s Daughter,” the film eerily parallels the goings-on at the main house, as Pearl and Maxine meet for the first time over a glass of lemonade. At the guesthouse, Brittany and Jackson get down to business, as RJ films the erotic scenes through the lens of an auteur. See, that’s the angle – a classy porn flick. Maxine finds herself followed by Pearl, first presenting as a frail old woman, but slowly gaining vitality as she sees the youngsters in action. There is nothing supernatural about this, just a long-dormant sense of self reemerging.
X is a movie of conflicts. There is Howard (Stephen Ure), the elderly homeowner versus Wayne, the enthusiastic producer. Both have brought unexpected (and very human) baggage to the agreement. The only undefined relationship of the group is between RJ and Lorraine. It hits a measurable bump in the road as she redraws the line between traditional upbringing and real-world experience, absorbing everything she sees. Then there’s poor RJ, the young auteur filming an adult movie, but struggling to elevate it to respectable cinema. RJ’s reckoning kicks off the second act.
This isn’t a movie meant to titillate the senses of your typical gore-hound. In a way, director Ti West is RJ, not necessarily looking to elevate the genre (please, no), but to give it fresh angles and a deeper impact. At an economical 105 minutes, West manages to develop character chemistry and contradiction for all eight main characters. This seems like a lot for a film that isn’t over two hours, and the players are more than the stereotypes of Slut, Good Girl, Bookworm, and Over-achiever. There are no throwaway personalities in X, and as the kills rack up one-by-one, there are no cheap, easy ways out.
Thought has gone into X from the filtered sunlight, the artful adult scenes, and even the relationship conflict that kicks off the murder spree. Nothing screams “We’ll figure it out in post,” and that is important. This is a movie where the end may be a bunch of people dying horribly, but nothing is telegraphed – in case you’ve forgotten that you’ve come to watch a horror movie. While not an exploitative film, the gore is top-notch, not relying on impossible leaps of logic or stupid misdirection. There is nothing elaborate about how people die, just that they do, and it’s awful because you’re just getting to know them, and you kinda want to see them make it in the world. These are smart characters who act like humans caught in a very strange situation.
X is a horror film that starts as an art film and devolves into a nightmare you’ll find yourself cheering for. It’s great fun and worth a second and third watch.
X (2022) is rated R for swears, nudity, sexytimes, corpses, people getting shot, people getting stabbed, eye gouges, people getting eaten by alligators, people run over by car tires.