R ‧ Horror • 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Written by Ti West
Directed by Ti West
Mia Goth; Jenna Ortega; Martin Henderson; Brittany Snow; Scott Mescudi.
(In their own words) In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast soon find themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.
Horror is not my “go to” genre. It’s one that I’ve really tried to enjoy, but mostly I get too scared to watch alone, and reviewing movies can mean watching a lot of movies by myself. So, if it weren’t for a friend offering to attend the press screening for X with me, I wouldn’t have gone, though I was intrigued.
I was mainly intrigued since the film is being distributed by A24 Films and over the last year, I’ve come to find that A24 Films tends to release surprisingly good films. So I had a hunch I might enjoy it. And I did, I actually really enjoyed the film, though there is a lot to digest from it.
The basic part of the plot is a group of young filmmakers are setting out to shoot an adult film. The director, Wayne, wants it to be a huge financial success like Debbie Does Dallas. The cinematographer, RJ, wants it to be a more artistic film than most pornos. He wants it to be a high quality film and raise the genre up as a whole, that’s his mission and reason for doing the film, aside from just paying the bills. Which is fitting because my impression of the film was that it was really raising the bar on horror films. It was shot with much more finesse than most horror films. Its acting is solid throughout, the writing is really good, the film moves in different directions than you suspect, and manages to captivate you as a viewer, not to just see what the next brutal killing will be, but you want to know how the story will end.
This is also the second film this year I’ve seen Jenna Ortega in, and I have to say she is turning in some wonderful performances recently. I think she’s showing that she is going to be a force in cinema really soon. She’s not alone in a solid acting performance, but she is the character that gets to experience a major change during the story. She’s the only one that makes a choice to change her life and it’s compelling to watch. The entire cast does a very fine acting job. It’s one of the best ensemble pieces of the year so far.
The film is tense. There is a huge amount of build up for the true action gets started. It lays a lot of groundwork in the beginning of the film, but in a really good way. The first hour of the film is used really well to set up how this thing will finish. Just excellent pacing throughout.
There are also a couple of really cool editing choices. Superfast back and forth jump cut edits of different locations and of what is happening. They are nearly jarring to the point of looking like a mistake when it first happens, until you realize they are making a deliberate choice.
This is really a first rate film, not just an excellent horror. The sum of the parts of this make it a really good film. But don’t be fooled, it is a horror. There’s some graphic slashing scenes that aren’t for the faint of heart, it’s a horror. A really good one.
Three BEST things about the film
- Unexpected twists.
- I like that it’s not just a slasher horror. It was actually very cinematic and had some heart to it.
- Well developed characters.
The WORST things about the Film
- Some ridiculous choices by characters to advance the plot.
- Too convenient for many parts.
Ask permission from homeowners before you shoot a film in their property.
THE FINAL WORD
A surprisingly elevated horror film, bringing an artistic eye to a genre where you don’t expect it.
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It.
X gets a Like It
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.