X (2022)

Director Ti West has always been a master of building up his films and then diving in to a massive explosion. It can still be seen with his first film “The Roost,” his bang up cult gem “House of the Devil,” and he continues that tradition with “X.” Much of “X” was shrouded in mystery upon its release, and while it’s definitely wearing its obvious influences on its sleeve, make no mistake: everything you see here, everything that unfolds, all of it is definitely from Ti West.

In 1979 Texas, pornographic film actress Maxine Minx embarks on a road trip with her producer boyfriend Wayne, fellow actors Bobby Lynne and Jackson Hole, director RJ and RJ’s girlfriend Lorraine to shoot an adult movie for the booming home video market. They arrive at a farmhouse occupied by conservative elderly couple Howard and Pearl in the desolate Texas countryside to film an adult movie without the couple’s knowledge.  As the day shifts to night, the visitors slowly realize that they are not safe, and are being targeted by a nearby enemy.

“X” is very a horror exploitation movie about two demented people terrorizing a group of porn stars in the South, but it’s also very much a commentary about aging. It’s about the ravages of aging, the horrors of aging, and the ultimately finite time our body has to indulge in and engage in acts of sexual satisfaction or indulgence. “X” is also very much themes related to aging including unfulfilled promises, unrealized dreams, about how mental abuse can devour our brains and leave us a hollow shell. And yes, it’s also a somewhat punctuated look at the life draining force that can be the porn industry.

By no coincidence I’m sure, star Mia Goth resembles a very weary Linda Lovelace who, despite displaying reluctance to perform, is pushed in to acting in his porno. She’s going to be a star, he insists, and eats up his cheers by ultimately convincing herself that this is the road to becoming a beloved celebrity. West drops this group of porn stars and the film crew in to the conservative South as they set themselves up for trouble at every turn. Much like your classic fish out of water horror movie, West establishes that these people simply don’t belong in this land with the brief shots of locals cringing at their sight.

This is a classic trope that helps to establish that any one of these people can eventually be snatched up and or attacked by the devoutly religious neighbors lurking about. Although “X” works at a slow pace, it builds up with some excellent look at the idea of sexuality, the sexual dynamic in the bedroom, and how for some indulging in promiscuous sex is more a race against our own biology. While Mia Goth is the face of the movie and does a marvelous job (Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi, and Stephen Ure are no slouch, either), Brittany Snow completely steals the movie away as buxom porn star Bobby-Lynne.

Not only is she sexy, funny, and believable in the role, but she grabs some really good moments including singing a haunting cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” As with most West productions, the cast is tight and the production is small, but he offers a stellar narrative, and powerful punch that promises to stick with his audience long after the film’s come to a close.